Iowa House debate on fetal heartbeat legislation could come Tuesday

Rep. Shannon Lundgren

Rep. Shannon Lundgren R-Peosta

DES MOINES — The so-called fetal heartbeat bill could be debated by the Iowa House as early as Tuesday.

After sitting on the House unfinished business calendar for more than a month, bill manager Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said Monday she was encouraged to see Senate File 359 on the debate calendar for May 1.

SF 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 by the House Human Resources Committee to include language that would ban abortion in most cases after the sixth week of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

Although she hasn’t run a “blue card” to determine if there are 51 votes for the bill, Lundgren said the majority Republicans “aren’t going to run a bill without the support to pass it.”

There have been questions about that support since the heartbeat language was added by the House Human Resources Committee, with one Republican voting against it and another reluctantly voting for it.

The fetal heartbeat bill essentially is Senate File 2281 that passed the Senate 30-20 on Feb. 28.


Although Lundgren believes Republicans have been successful in promoting anti-abortion legislation this session and last, that there’s a lot of support for passage of the fetal heartbeat bill is important.

“We’re in the majority for a reason and that includes advancing the pro-life cause,” she said. “At the same time, I tell people that what we’ve done is not insignificant. The 20-week abortion ban was not insignificant.”

Pro-abortion rights groups are marshaling their opposition to legislation that a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said would make abortion “functionally illegal” after six weeks.

“Planned Parenthood strongly opposes this bill in all its forms,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa.

Banning fetal tissue research would prevent lifesaving treatments and block scientists from finding potential cures for dozens of medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s chorea, she added.

Lundgren has offered an amendment to create exceptions to preserve the life of the mother in cases of physical disorder, life-endangering physical condition caused by pregnancy or when continuation of the pregnancy would “create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

It also would create an exception in cases when it is determined an abortion is “medically necessary,” including cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality that “in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment is incompatible with life.”

Banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy was the crown jewel for anti-abortion advocates last year.


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This year, the prize is the fetal heartbeat legislation that many see as a first step toward a legal battle aimed at overturning the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Nothing good can come from that, Planned Parenhood’s Davison-Rippey said.

SF 359 “is all part of a radical agenda to chip away at safe, legal abortion one law at a time,” she said. “It’s time for these politicians to get the message, pack it up and go home.”

That might not be possible until the House acts on SF 359, according to senators who support it.

“I can tell you our caucus is very motivated to stay as long as it takes to move forward on the heartbeat legislation,” Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said Monday.

He reportedly is one of five Republican senators who have suggested they will not vote for any budget bill until SF 359 has been approved.

With a nine-seat majority, the loss of five votes would prevent the GOP from getting the 26 votes needed to pass legislation.

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