NW Iowa lawmakers react to House, Senate approval of "fetal heartbeat bill"

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The "Heartbeat" bill was passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate in the Iowa state legislature this week. SF 359 would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which typically happens less than two months into pregnancy, before many women realize they are pregnant. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most women find out they are pregnant between four and seven weeks, meaning the bill would effectively ban most abortions in Iowa.

Some critics said the bill would make having an abortion illegal before most women would even realise they were pregnant.

Other Iowa Democrats called the bill "intentionally unconstitutional".

The Iowa bill, which includes exemptions for victims of rape and incest, quickly drew the condemnation of national abortion rights groups. The bill also would ban selling or donating fetal tissue from abortions or still births for medical research.

As the bill heads to Reynolds' desk of, University of Iowa constitutional-law Professor Paul Gowder said the bill will nearly certainly not survive a court challenge. The governors of MS and Kentucky have recently signed into law bills that ban abortion after 15 weeks and after 11 weeks, respectively.

"Here we are at 1:05 in the morning, pushing a bill that has absolutely no constitutional chance of ever passing muster", McCoy said. The midnight votes on the bill were contentious but successful for the pro-life advocates. A federal appeals court, whose territory includes Iowa, rejected heartbeat bills passed in 2013 in North Dakota and Arkansas.

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There were 13 abortion-providing facilities in the state that year, The Guttmacher Institute reported - a result of a decline in the number of clinics from prior years, dropping by 28 percent from 2011 when there were 18 abortion providers in the state.

Wessel-Kroeschell said the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be left to women and medical experts.

SF 359 would prohibit abortion from the time a fetus has a detectable heartbeat. "They do not care how much taxpayer money will be spent on a lawsuit, they don't care how many women's lives will be damaged because of inadequate access to care, or how many families may choose to go elsewhere because Iowa is no longer a state where they are safe to live and work".

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

Abortion opponents hope Republican President Donald Trump soon will have an opportunity to appoint at least one more conservative justice - thus tilting the high court's ideological balance in their favour.

"All we can say right now is that we fought this legislation every step of the way and regret that it has made it this far", ACLU of Iowa's spokeswoman Veronica Fowler told AFP.

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