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Iowa anti-abortion groups, lawmakers announce bill to ban all abortions

Anti-abortion activists held a prayer walk in Des Moines in July 2022.
Madeleine King
Iowa anti-abortion groups and some Republican lawmakers are starting the push for a “life at conception” bill.

Iowa anti-abortion groups and some Republican lawmakers are starting the push for a “life at conception” bill that would ban all abortion in Iowa.

Maggie DeWitte, who heads the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders, announced the effort Monday at a Prayer for Life anti-abortion rally at the Statehouse. She said while they’re waiting for a court decision on Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” law, anti-abortion groups believe it’s the right time to start pushing for more restrictions.

“Even if we win the appeal and get heartbeat, the pro-life community and Iowans are not going to stop at heartbeat,” DeWitte said. “We’re not going to stop until we’ve eliminated abortion, which means a life at conception bill.”

Rep. Luana Stoltenberg, R-Davenport, is one of the bill’s sponsors. She said abortion is not a good option for Iowa women, and it should be eliminated from the state.

“My prayer is that Iowa will pass a life at conception bill to protect our most vulnerable and defenseless citizens, and our women and children,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg and a small group of Republican lawmakers already introduced a bill thatwould ban medication abortions. It’s not clear how much traction either of these bills will get at the statehouse.

Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Abortion bans take away people’s power over their lives and their futures, and gives control to politicians and judges,” said Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa. “Gov. Reynolds or any legislator should not be in the exam room with a patient and doctor to decide what medical care is best for them.”

It’s still not known how far lawmakers will be able to go in banning abortion as the Iowa Supreme Court prepares to reconsider the level of protection that abortion rights should have in the state.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking the Court to reinstate her ban on abortionsafter cardiac activity is detected, with some exceptions. That can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy. The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case in April, and would likely issue a ruling by the end of June.

That ruling could reinstate the “fetal heartbeat” law, and it could expand lawmakers’ ability to further restrict abortion. Republican leaders in the Iowa Legislature have saidthey want to wait for that ruling before taking action.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said Iowans support reproductive freedom.

“Politicians have no place interfering in someone else’s decisions about when to start a family,” she said in a statement. “The latest plan by MAGA Republicans to ban all abortion without exception will put the lives of too many Iowans at risk.”

Konfrst said Democrats want to guarantee abortion rights in the Iowa Constitution.

Reynolds and Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird also spoke at the anti-abortion event Monday. They told attendees they’re fighting in court to get the “fetal heartbeat” law reinstated, but they didn’t say if they would support a bill to ban all abortions.

Reynolds said keeping the focus on the “fetal heartbeat” bill doesn’t mean doing nothing.

“As we enter a post-Roe world, it’s up to us to show what it means to be a pro-life state,” Reynolds said. “It’s up to us to not just dismantle abortion’s culture of death, but to build a culture of life.”

She touted her proposals to increase funding for anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers and to create grants to promote fathers’ involvement in parenting.

Bird said she was thankful to sign on to defend the “fetal heartbeat” law when she entered office, after her Democratic predecessor refused to defend it in court. She also mentioned that she signed a letter with other Republican attorneys general warning pharmacies of potential legal consequences for mailing abortion pills.

“As long as I’m attorney general, I will work hard and fight to protect the right to life,” Bird said.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter