Iowa Bill Would Ban All Abortions After an Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 21, 2018   |   3:00PM   |   Des Moines, IA

During an emotional hearing Tuesday, Iowa House lawmakers considered a bill to prohibit abortions from the moment an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat.

The Des Moines Register reports a huge crowd attended the state House Human Resources Committee hearing to speak out for and against the bill.

The bill would require abortion practitioners to test for an 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. Because an unborn baby’s heartbeat begins so early after conception, the bill would prohibit almost all abortions in Iowa.

The state Senate passed heartbeat legislation in February; however, the House did not advance the legislation, according to Iowa Public Radio.

Instead, several Iowa House Republicans amended another pro-life bill in March to include language prohibiting abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

On Tuesday, lawmakers considered testimony from both sides of the debate.

According to the Register:

One of the first speakers was Leah Vanden Bosch, who told Iowa representatives that her depression and anxiety made an unexpected pregnancy overwhelming. “If someone were to force me to carry my pregnancy to term, I would have been so desperate to escape the reality of what would become my life, I would have taken my own,” she said in a quavering voice.

The legislators also heard from Luana Stoltenberg, who told them about having three abortions, starting when she was a teenager. Stoltenberg said her abortions fed a spiral of depression, guilt, alcohol and drug use and physical problems that made it impossible for her to become pregnant after she turned her life around, married and wanted to have a family. “I lived through the reality that the only children I ever carried, I killed,” said Stoltenberg, who held up a tiny plastic model of a fetus as she spoke.

Dr. Kathi Aultman, a pro-life advocate and former abortionist, also urged lawmakers to pass the life-saving bill.

I love to meet adults that I delivered, but it’s always bittersweet because I’m reminded of all the people I’ll never meet because I aborted them. It also reminds me that I am a mass murderer,” she said, according to the report.

Pro-life lawmakers acknowledged the legislation would challenge 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.