Government

Iowa's 'heartbeat' abortion bill heads to '100 percent pro-life' governor

Measure finalized by early-morning Senate vote

Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at a GOP District Convention at West High in Iowa City on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)
Governor Kim Reynolds campaigns at a GOP District Convention at West High in Iowa City on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds is “100 percent pro-life,” but her staff said Wednesday that governor is withholding judgment on a bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature that seeks to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected at about the sixth week of a pregnancy.

The governor did not talk with reporters at a morning Smart Conference, but spokeswoman Brenna Smith issued a statement saying Reynolds is “100 percent pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn.

“The governor’s office has not received the bill from the Legislature to review it,” Smith added in lieu of a direct response to reporters requesting a brief opportunity to speak with her. “The governor does not comment on any bill until she sees it in its final form.”

The governor has three days from receiving the bill to decide on the fate of the measure, given that lawmakers have not adjourned their 2018 overtime session.

Shortly before 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, 28 GOP and one independent senator voted to approve and send Reynolds legislation the Iowa House passed hours early that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

A total of 17 Democrats opposed the bill and four senators were absent.

Backers of the measure acknowledged during floor debate in both legislative chambers that Senate File 359 is designed to enact one of the most-restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country and is intended to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion.

“I believe this bill will be a vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade. There’s nothing hidden about the agenda. Today the pro-life movement won a battle, but the war rages on,” said Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City.

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“My Republican colleagues, this is the vote of your career. Legislators for decades have dreamed of this opportunity. This is legacy,” he added. “My friends, prayers work.”

Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, delivered a similar message early Tuesday afternoon. She told her colleagues “the time is now” at that start of a marathon debate on a 2017 bill that initially was a prohibition on the transfer of fetal body tissue but was amended to include the so-called “heartbeat” language.

At about 11 p.m., the House passed the bill 51-46.

‘A good day’

It’s time for the Republicans to “quit playing doctor and stop using your positions of power to harass, control and disrespect Iowa women,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, during the Senate debate.

Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, said the bill isn’t about reducing the number of abortions. Instead, its sponsors seem “hellbent on making a name for those who are set to challenge Roe v. Wade,” she said.

“Never mind how women’s rights will be run over by the Family Leader bus that’s headed to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Mathis said.

Even though it was the middle of the night, Bertrand, who led a group of Republicans who refused to vote for budget bills until getting a chance to vote for the fetal heartbeat bill, said it was a “good day for life” because it will start the march toward ending a practice authorized by the 1973 court ruling that he said has allow 60 million babies to be aborted.

Democrats predicted the state will waste millions in court defending a law that’s been overturned in other states.

Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, called the bill an “anti-woman” measure by “pro-birth party” that cares more about the birth of children than the lives that are created once the child is both.

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“Here we are at 1:05 in the morning, pushing a bill that has absolutely no constitutional chance of ever passing muster,” McCoy said. “Where it’s been tried, it’s been quickly struck down by the courts but not after extensive and expensive lawsuits. This bill inserts government in the personal lives of Iowa women.

“This bill is anti-woman and if this is not a war on women, I don’t know what is a war on women.”

During the House debate, Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, said the bill “thrusts Iowa to the right side of history” in challenging Roe v Wade. “With this bill, we make Iowa one of the safest places for the baby in the womb in the entire nation.”

Senate File 359, approved 43-6 in the Senate in March 2017, banned “knowingly acquiring, providing, receiving, otherwise transferring or using a fetal body part” It was amended earlier this year by the House Human Resources Committee to include language to ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy.

A House-passed amendment would allow abortions in a “medical emergency” or if “medically necessary,” including cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality before the 20th week of pregnancy that “in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment is incompatible with life.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375, james.lynch@thegazette.com; (515) 243-7220, rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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