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May 7, 2018

Iowa gov. signs nation's most restrictive abortion ban

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    Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Friday signed into state law a bill that prohibits health care providers from performing abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs during the sixth week of pregnancy.

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    According to the Associated Press, the law implements the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States.

    Law details

    The law bars providers from performing abortions once a fetal heart beat is detected, except in instances of rape, incest, or a medical emergency. To qualify for the exceptions, women are required to have reported instances of rapes to law enforcement or a physician within 45 days and to have reported instances of incest within 140 days.

    The law requires that physicians conduct an abdominal ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat when a woman is seeking an abortion. If the physician detects a heartbeat, the physician under the law is not permitted to perform an abortion.

    The law also will ban certain uses of fetal tissue, with exceptions for medical research.

    The law is slated to take effect July 1, but could be delayed by legal challenges, the AP reports.


    Reynolds in a statement said, "I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision. But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn't a beating heart indicate life?"  She continued, "I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court."

    Some observers have praised the bill's enactment, while others have been critical of the legislation and have indicated their intent to pursue legal action challenging the law.

    Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in a tweet wrote, "Glad to see Iowa leading the way and standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn."

    But some have said the law will prohibit abortions before some women are able to realize they are pregnant, NPR's "The Two-Way" reports.

    Jamila Perritt, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said, "The likelihood that an individual can miss her period, get a pregnancy test, then make an appointment to see an abortion provider, take time off of work if she's working, find child care for her other children, get in to get her abortion and have all of that done prior to a six-week time period is absolutely unrealistic and unreasonable." Perritt said the law is intended to limit access to abortion.

    Elizabeth Renda, director of women's media for the Democratic National Committee, said, "This unconstitutional bill is nothing but a thinly veiled attack on Iowa women's most basic rights and freedoms—every woman deserves the fundamental right to make decisions about her own body with her doctor."

    Suzanna de Baca, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said, "We will challenge this law with absolutely everything we have on behalf of our patients."

    The American Civil Liberties Union in a tweet wrote that it will join with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to file a lawsuit looking "to block the law from taking effect" (Ingber, "The Two-Way," NPR, 5/5; Pfannenstiel/Petroski, Des Moines Register/USA Today, 5/4; AP/Syracuse Post-Standard, 5/5; AFP/Yahoo News,  5/4).

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