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House Republicans Advance 'Fetal Heartbeat' Legislation

sandy salmon
John Pemble
Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, speaks during a House Human Resources committee meeting Thursday, March 15, 2018.

An Iowa House committee Thursday advanced what could become the strictest abortion law in the nation ahead of a legislative deadline.

It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That provision is attached to a bill that puts limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue.

Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of being willing to risk women’s lives to make an ideological point.

“We’re not talking about ideology here,” said Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville. “We are talking about an unborn baby who is deserving of all the rights and protections including the right to life under the U.S. Constitution and our state constitution.”

Democratic Rep. Timi Brown-Powers said she understands why Republicans dislike abortion, and she would never choose an abortion for herself.

“But I cannot choose for any of you what you would do,” Brown-Powers said. “Because quite frankly, it is none of my business. The government doesn’t belong in there. Legislators don’t belong there.”

The 12-9 vote was mostly along party lines, with Republican Rep. Michael Bergan joining Democrats to vote against the bill.

The Senate had already passed a “fetal heartbeat” abortion bill. The House version removes criminal penalties for doctors and removes language related to Iowa’s current law that bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Similar legislation from two other states has been blocked in federal courts.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, pointed out the bill does not include an exception for victims of rape or incest.

“So a 7-year-old who is pregnant due to rape…?” asked Mascher.

“….would have to carry the life,” answered Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta.

“Wow. I am just dumbfounded,” Mascher said.

The bill can now be debated by the full House of Representatives. The Senate would have to take the bill up again if it passes the House.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter