Iowa Senate Panel Passes Bill to Ban All Abortions After an Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 8, 2018   |   4:49PM   |   Des Moines, IA

Iowa Senate Republicans moved forward with a controversial pro-life bill Thursday that would prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected.

The Des Moines Register reports Iowa Senate File 3143 passed a Senate subcommittee Thursday in a 2-1 vote after an emotional debate.

The bill would require abortion practitioners to test for the unborn baby’s heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion would be prohibited except in the case of a medical emergency. Violators would be charged with a Class D felony, and liable for up to five years in prison. Pro-life lawmakers introduced a similar bill in the state House in January.

Because an unborn baby’s heartbeat begins so early after conception, the bill would prohibit almost all abortions in Iowa.

Two female lawmakers were among the most vocal advocates for and against the bill.

“These are human beings,” said state Sen. Amy Sinclair, a pro-life Republican who chairs the subcommittee. “We have the responsibility to offer them the same liberty and the same rights that you and I have.”

Sinclair shared how she became pregnant at age 19 and chose life for her son. When she had the opportunity to hear her unborn son’s heartbeat for the first time, she said it affected her deeply.

However, state Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, a pro-abortion Democrat who also sits on the subcommittee, criticized the legislation as an attack on “women’s health care” in Iowa. She described the bill as “dangerous and unconstitutional.”

A local pastor, the Rev. David Sickelka of the Urbandale United Church of Christ, who also testified against the bill, went so far as to claim, “Just a beating heart is not a life,” according to the local news.

Pro-life lawmakers acknowledged that the bill challenges current legal decisions on abortion, and expressed hope that it eventually could reverse Roe v. Wade.

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Many years ago, scientific research established that an unborn baby’s heart starts beating around 21 days after fertilization – usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Many sources on fetal development report this, though others link to evidence that the heartbeat begins at about 18 days. In 2016, researchers at the University of Oxford found evidence that an unborn baby’s heart may begin beating even earlier – by 16 days after conception, according to the Daily Mail.

While the rationale behind this bill is noble, many pro-life leaders recognize that, for the present, such bills may create unintended consequences that could hamper the pro-life cause.

Because of the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, a law to end abortions or prohibit them after a detectable heartbeat most likely would not survive a court challenge.

North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about their ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

Currently, only four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices possibly would uphold a heartbeat law or overturn Roe.

When courts rule against such laws, state taxpayers often are forced to reimburse the pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.