The Republican-controlled Iowa legislature passed a bill Wednesday that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Since a heartbeat is often found as early as six weeks into pregnancy, the measure would qualify as the most stringent abortion restriction in the country if Republican governor Kim Reynolds signs it into law.
Activists and lawmakers on both sides of the issue concede that the timing of the legislative push is designed to spur a Supreme Court challenge at an opportune time for conservatives, who are emboldened by the recent appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch and the Trump administration’s prioritization of conservative judicial nominations.
“We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade — 100 percent,” Republican state senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City told Reuters.
The bill, which requires any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to confirm the lack of a fetal heartbeat, will likely draw an immediate legal challenge from reproductive-rights groups and abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
The legislation is an “intentionally unconstitutional ban on 99 percent of safe, legal abortion, designed to challenge Roe v. Wade,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Becca Lee said. “The bill weaponizes fetal heartbeat, which is by all accounts an arbitrary standard that bans abortion long before the point of fetal viability.”
The bill, which provides exceptions for victims of rape and incest, comes roughly a month after Mississippi’s governor signed a bill into law banning abortion after 15 weeks, prompting an immediate legal challenge from Planned Parenthood. A Kentucky law signed in April that bans abortion after eleven weeks also drew a legal challenge.
The Ohio legislature passed a “fetal heartbeat” abortion law in 2016, but Republican governor John Kasich refused to sign it.