National News

Iowa Lawmakers Pass Ban on Most Abortions, Aiming for Court Fight

Posted May 2, 2018 12:05 p.m. EDT

Iowa lawmakers early Wednesday passed a bill that would outlaw most abortions after six weeks, a measure aimed at returning the legal fight over abortion to the Supreme Court.

The legislation bans most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually by around six weeks in a pregnancy. If signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, it would be among the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. It is similar to measures passed and struck down by the courts in recent years in North Dakota and Arkansas.

Supporters and opponents of the Iowa measure say that if the governor signs the bill they expect it will swiftly trigger a court fight. State Sen. Jake Chapman, a Republican who supported the legislation, described it as “the avenue to overturn Roe v. Wade.” Chapman added that “the Supreme Court is changing” and might have new justices by the time an appeal reached that level.

If the bill took effect, Chapman said, “a vast majority of the elective abortions that occur in the state of Iowa will be prohibited.” Reynolds opposes abortion, but her office did not immediately respond to questions about whether she plans to sign the bill.

The Iowa bill, which includes exemptions for victims of rape and incest, quickly drew the condemnation of national abortion rights groups.

“NARAL opposes this ban with full force and we are mobilizing our members to demand that their legislators do not advance this extreme attack on our right to access essential health care,” said Kaylie Hanson Long, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement shortly before the bill passed.

State Sen. Janet Petersen, a Democrat, called the bill an attack on women’s rights and said she believed Republicans, who control the Iowa governorship and both legislative chambers, might have acted in part for political reasons — fear of losing power in November’s elections.

“I certainly believe it will be a wake-up call to people who believe that we should have access to family planning in our state,” Petersen said.