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

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 1, 2018   |   11:02AM   |   Des Moines, IA

The Iowa Senate passed a bill Wednesday to prohibit abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat.

The vote puts the controversial legislation one step closer to becoming law and setting up the state for a potential legal battle that challenges Roe v. Wade.

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 is detectable by about six weeks of pregnancy, the bill would prohibit almost all abortions in Iowa. Abortion activists say it is unconstitutional.

The Sioux City Journal reports the legislation appears likely to pass the state House as well.

Pro-life state Sen. Amy Sinclair said the bill strikes “at the very heart and soul of what it means to be an American, what it means to be a person.”

Pro-abortion state Sen. Joe Bolkcom countered that the bill is nothing more than politicians using their “power to harass and disrespect girls and women.”

And Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen ironically claimed the bill is “dangerous” because “the only exception is to prevent death,” according to the local news.

The goal of the legislation is to prevent the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year. However, pro-life advocates and abortion activists both admitted that the bill likely will face a court challenge if it becomes law. Whether it will be successful is difficult to say. While the rationale behind the 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.

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Because of the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, a law to prohibit abortions 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 its 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 pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.