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House Republicans Revive Legislation to Ban Abortions After Fetal Heartbeat Detected

Katarina Sostaric
Rep. Sandy Salmon, Rep. Shannon Lundgren and Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell listen to testimony at a subcommittee meeting Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

Iowa House Republicans are reviving a proposed ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, by adding it as an amendment to another bill that would put limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue in Iowa.

At a subcommittee meeting convened Wednesday to consider the fetal tissue bill, conversation turned mostly to the amendment. It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation.

The Senate already passed a bill to do that, but the House did not take the next step of assigning it to a subcommittee.

Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said bringing the fetal tissue bill as an amendment was a “bait and switch.”

House Human Resources Committee Chair Joel Fry, R-Osceola, denied that.

“I think there’s some desire to see the fetal tissue bill also available for discussion, and so my final decision was that was a better vehicle to be able to have both discussions available to us,” Fry said.

He says he intends to move the bill through his committee on Thursday.

Unlike the Senate bill, the House amendment does not allow doctors who perform abortions to be charged with felonies. The House amendment also removes the Senate’s repeal of the current law banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Both versions would effectively ban most abortions in Iowa, except in the case of a medical emergency. A medical emergency is defined as a situation in which “an abortion is performed to preserve the life of the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder…but not including psychological conditions, emotional conditions, familial conditions, or the woman’s age.”

This would be one of the most extreme restrictions on abortion nationwide, and federal courts have struck down attempts by other states to implement similar legislation.

“Obviously we’re here so that legislators can create a vehicle to challenge Roe v. Wade,” said Jamie Burch, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “And if this bill is passed and signed by our governor, it would open the door to endless litigation.”

Abortion opponents noted there are national organizations offering to help the state challenge the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“We know that where there is a heartbeat, there is a life,” said Nate Oppman with The Family Leader Foundation. “And to deny it and let someone make another choice has unbelievable repercussions.”

As for the bill banning fetal tissue sales, Wessel-Kroeschell said there are no fetal tissue sales in Iowa because it’s against federal law.

“It is simply a way to make sure that we will have a problem in doing research,” Wessel-Kroeschell said.

The bill goes further than federal law in also banning any transfers of fetal tissue, unless that tissue comes from a stillbirth, and the parents willingly donate it for medical research.