Iowa House Passes Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 30, 2017   |   11:12AM   |   Des Moines, Iowa

An Iowa bill to protect unborn babies from painful, late-term abortions passed another hurdle on its way to becoming law on Wednesday.

A state House committee approved the bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks in an 11-8 vote on Wednesday, moving it to the full state House for consideration, the Iowa Gazette reports. The committee also debated language to prohibit abortions after the unborn baby’s heart can be detected, but lawmakers did not pass it, the report states.

State Rep. Shannon Lundgren, a Republican, said she believes the bill would withstand a court challenge and save babies’ lives.

“… we would be protecting about 51 babies a year by going this route. We are going to make an impact immediately,” Lundgren said.

The state Senate approved the bill earlier this month; but because the House amended it, the bill will have to return to the state Senate for another vote, if approved by the full House.

Lawmakers did not move forward the heartbeat language after many expressed concerns that it would be overturned in court and not save any unborn babies’ lives, according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa pro-life groups said they would like to see unborn babies protected from the moment of conception, but the 20-week abortion ban is a step in the right direction.

Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference told the newspaper: “We certainly support the concept and idea that life begins at conception, but I don’t think we’re there in the court system yet. Our interest is really in getting something that works and can stand up in courts and can be Iowa’s first abortion restriction in many years. I think that’s a good place for Iowa to start.”

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An Iowa Planned Parenthood spokesperson called the bill “terrible” and claimed it would “force” women to carry and give birth to an “unwanted” child.

The bill would prohibit painful, late-term abortions after 20 weeks on unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain; exceptions would be allowed to save the mother’s life. The bill also would increase reporting requirements for abortion practitioners and the state Department of Public Health, according to the local news.

Earlier this month, the state Senate adopted a unique amendment to the bill that would prohibit abortions before 20 weeks if the unborn baby is viable, according to the newspaper. The amendment addresses the possibility of future medical advancements that push back the point when a baby is viable outside the womb.

Jenifer Bowen of Iowa Right to Life said lawmakers also took out language that would have allowed unborn babies to be aborted after 20 weeks if doctors detect a fetal anomaly that they deem “incompatible with life.”

“We are extremely pleased to see the fetal anomaly/incompatible with life language stripped out of the bill,” Bowen said in an email. “The 20-week abortion ban has now become a Pro-Life omnibus bill!”

Currently, 16 states have pain-capable unborn child protection laws in effect, Kentucky being the most recent. Other states are considering similar bills.

Together, these laws potentially are saving thousands of babies from painful, late-term abortions. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.

Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain at 20 weeks, researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks or earlier. Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.

At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.

Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told a U.S. Senate committee last year that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20 week stage when performing surgery, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”

“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.