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Iowa governor signs ‘heartbeat’ bill banning abortion after six weeks

Iowa's Republican-controlled legislature passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Video: Reuters)

This post has been updated.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a bill that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It is one of the most restrictive laws of its kind in the United States and one that Republicans hope will pave the way for a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The “heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions as early as six weeks — around the time women generally feel early signs of pregnancy and before many realize they are pregnant — was passed Tuesday by the Iowa House, 51-46. The state Senate passed the bill 29-17 early Wednesday, sending it to Reynolds (R), who has said abortion is “equivalent to murder.”

State Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R), while speaking on the House floor Tuesday, called the bill “a courageous step” that sends the message that Iowa “will defend its most vulnerable, those without a voice — our unborn children.”

State Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D) slammed her Republican colleagues. “So what made you decide to vote for this bill today?” she said on the floor Tuesday. “Obviously, there are 51 members of this body that feel they know more than the medical experts on what is good medical practice.”

The law requires women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound, at which time a physician would detect whether there is a heartbeat. It also would prohibit someone from acquiring, providing, receiving, transferring or using a fetal body part in Iowa. A violator could be charged with a Class C felony.

Abortion battles are heating up ahead of November midterms

Similar legislation has been passed in other states. The governors of Mississippi and Kentucky recently signed into law bills that ban abortion after 15 and 11 weeks, respectively. Federal judges have temporarily blocked those bills. But as The Washington Post's Mary Jordan wrote last month, these antiabortion bills are meant to set up legal challenges that would take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that prevented states from banning abortions outright.

Republicans are banking on an opportunity for President Trump to nominate a conservative judge who could help overturn the 1973 ruling. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 81, a centrist, is said to be considering retirement. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, two of the court's liberals, are 85 and 79, respectively.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa Republicans said during a debate Tuesday night that they hope the law faces a legal challenge so that it can advance to the Supreme Court. The Register also reported that exceptions in cases of rape and incest were added to the bill before the Senate passed it Wednesday morning.

At an antiabortion event last year, Reynolds advocated for legislation “that protects mothers and the unborn.”

“All of you are part of the movement that elected a pro-life president and vice president in President Trump and Vice President Pence,” she told supporters, adding that they are “shifting the direction of the Supreme Court.”

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Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa predicted an “expensive, lengthy legal battle” after lawmakers passed the bill on Wednesday.

“Today's actions to ban abortion are an embarrassment to Iowa and they will remain a blemish on our state for the foreseeable future, serving as one more reminder that Iowa's leadership does not value health care,” the organization said in a statement.

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This doctor was raised to believe abortion was wrong. He’s now an advocate for reproductive rights.