Political News

Iowa lawmakers OK 20-week abortion ban, 3-day wait period

Posted April 18

— Iowa legislators sent Gov. Terry Branstad a measure Tuesday that would ban most abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and impose a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking the procedure, a move highlighting the state's conservative shift since the November election.

The Republican-majority state Senate voted 30-20 along party lines for the legislation, after the GOP-led House approved it earlier this month. Branstad, a Republican, is expected to sign it.

The 20-week provision includes no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal conditions, though it would allow an abortion to be performed if the woman's life is at risk.

At least 19 other states have similar 20-week bans, which are based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Some have been stuck down by federal appeals courts, though the bulk of the bans are in effect.

The bill also would require a woman to wait 72 hours before she could get an abortion. Iowa would join five other states that have passed the same waiting period requirement, the longest in the country.

The legislation is a victory for GOP lawmakers in the state who have attempted abortion restrictions in the past only to be halted by Democrats. Republicans control both chambers and the governor's office for the first time in nearly 20 years following the Nov. 8 election. They've used the new power to push conservative-leaning legislation this session, including abortion restrictions.

A separate plan to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood is expected to pass before lawmakers adjourn for the year. It involves Republicans passing up millions of federal Medicaid dollars in order to use state dollars to create a family planning program that excludes organizations that provide abortions.

GOP Sen. Mark Costello said ahead of the final vote on the 20-week bill that a baby is fully formed and developed at that stage, which he estimated to be about five months.

"I've got five children and it's about five months when I could put my hand on my wife's tummy and feel the baby kicking, and she could feel the baby moving around," he said.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement that the legislation is "unprecedented and appalling."

"With this vote, Iowa has gone from a state that supports women and families, to one that is turning back the clock 50 years. Lawmakers' objectives are to shame women, and place undue and unconstitutional burdens on their attempts to access safe and legal abortion," she said.

The bill also includes a provision that a woman get counseling prior to an abortion that includes information about the medical procedure's health risks. Planned Parenthood said the counseling, approved in other states, is biased and lacks scientific foundation.

Republicans sought earlier this session to pass a so-called heartbeat bill but failed to get enough votes within their party. It would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. No state has successfully enacted such a policy, which would be the strictest ban in the country. The measure faced legal challenges over its constitutionality.

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