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

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 19, 2018   |   1:22PM   |   Des Moines, IA

The Iowa Senate soon could vote on a bill to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

Late last week, the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee approved state Senate Bill 3143 in an 8-5 vote, moving it to the full state Senate, the Sioux City Journal reports.

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. Doctors who violate the law 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.

Elizabeth Nash, a spokesperson for the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, told the newspaper that the bill would ban almost all abortions in the state.

“This kind of legislation essentially bans abortion at six weeks of pregnancy,” Nash said. “That’s very early in pregnancy — many women are not even aware they are pregnant at that point, so they haven’t even addressed the issue whether they want to continue with the pregnancy.”

Many years ago, scientific research established that an unborn baby’s heart starts beating around 21 days after fertilization. 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.

According to the report, six other states also are considering heartbeat bills: Missouri, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Female lawmakers are among the most vocal advocates for the Iowa bill.

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

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In a subcommittee meeting, Sinclair said 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.

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

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 in the first trimester 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.