Iowa Bans Abortion After Fetal Heartbeat Detected: 5 Things to Know

Iowa just passed one of the strictest abortion laws in the US, and reproductive rights activists are livid. Learn more about the unconstitutional measure, and what’s happening going forward.

1. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds just signed the United States’ most restrictive abortion bill into law on May 12. Known as the “heartbeat bill,” the law requires women who want an abortion to undergo an ultrasound first to determine whether the fetus has a heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat can be detected about six weeks into a pregnancy. Women often don’t know they’re pregnant at that point, and experts and opponents of the law argue this will prevent women from even considering the possibility of abortion when they find out.

2. There are exceptions included in the new law. Women will be exempt from the fetal heartbeat law IF she was raped and reports it to a law enforcement agency, a public or private health agency or a family physician within 45 days. Or, if she was the victim of incestand reports the crime to a law enforcement agency, a public or private health agency or a family physician within 140 days. 

Additionally, an abortion will be allowed if “not all the products of conception are expelled” from a spontaneous abortion, or if a doctor determines that the fetus has an abnormality that they believe is “incompatible with life.”

The fetal heartbeat law will go into effect on July 1 if the courts don’t intervene. Opponents argue that the proposed law is unconstitutional, a violation of Roe v. Wade.

3. Governor Reynolds was applauded by conservatives when she signed the law. Reynolds announced the new law at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual event on May 12, and was met with a standing ovation from the ultra-conservative group, according to the Des Moines Register. “We are No. 1 in the country when it comes to protecting life,” said Reynolds to the roughly 300 in attendance at Walnut Creek Church in Windsor Heights. “I believe all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor I pledge to you to do everything in my power to protect life.

“We know that our work is not done, that we must continue to work together to change the hearts and mind,” said Reynolds, who said she’ll continue to keep fighting if re-elected. “But I’ll tell you what, we’re not slowing down, we’re not going to stop. It’s a fight worth fighting.”

4. Iowa’s attorney general has recused himself because he personally disagrees with the statute. In a letter, Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson said that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller‘s decision to disqualify himself “is based on the Attorney General’s determination that he could not zealously assert the state’s position because of his core belief that the statute, if upheld, would undermine rights and protections for women.” Brenna Smith, the press secretary for the Iowa governor’s office, said they will instead be represented by the conservative, anti-abortion law firm Thomas More Society “at no cost to taxpayers.”

5. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU are suing the state of Iowa over the “unconstitutional” law. “We commend Attorney General Tom Miller for standing up for a woman’s right to control her own body, and decide for herself whether and when to become a parent. Not only is this ban blatantly unconstitutional, it’s also extremely harmful to women,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president in a statement.

“This abortion ban is beyond extreme,” said legal director for ACLU of Iowa Rita Bettis in a statement. “With it, Iowa politicians have tried to ban virtually all abortions for women in our state. In the 45 years since Roe, no federal or state court has upheld such a dangerous law.”

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