3 May 2018

Iowa passes 'most restrictive' abortion law in US

12:09 pm on 3 May 2018

An abortion law described as "the most restrictive" in the United States has been passed by the Iowa state legislature.

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Photo: 123 RF

The general assembly, which has a Republican Party majority, has approved a bill banning most abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected.

Republican governor Kim Reynolds has not yet said if she will sign the bill.

The bill would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

What new restrictions have been approved?

The so-called "heartbeat" bill would require any woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound to screen for a foetal heartbeat. If one is detected, she will be barred from obtaining a termination.

Some exceptions have been introduced - in cases of rape and incest, where it has been reported to authorities, and to save the woman's life.

"We're in the majority for a reason and that includes advancing the pro-life cause," Republican Representative Shannon Lundgren told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

"We are alive when our hearts start beating and our life is over when it stops," Republican Representative Dawn Pettengil told CBS News.

Some critics said the bill would make having an abortion illegal before most women would even realise they were pregnant.

Democratic Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell spoke against the legislation at the Iowa House of Representatives this week.

"All women, regardless of age, income or race, should be able to obtain reproductive health services, including abortion, free from political and economic barriers," Ms Wessel-Kroeschell said.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland's director of public affairs Erin Davison-Rippey also spoke out against the bill when it was first introduced.

"These extreme attempts to ban abortion fly in the face of both medical and legal standards, as well as common sense and public opinion among Iowans," Ms Davison-Rippey said.

"So-called 'heartbeat protection' bills are actually bans on safe, legal, abortion and they threaten to set reproductive rights back by decades."

Senior State Issues manager at Guttmacher Institute Elizabeth Nash said this was "the most restrictive abortion ban in the country".

She and Iowa Democrats suggested the bill was intentionally unconstitutional.

If Ms Reynolds signs the bill into law, it will likely be challenged in court for possibly violating Roe v Wade, the US Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion in 1973.

The ruling states some women have a right to terminate pregnancies until a foetus is viable.


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