Tensions flare as Iowa Legislature debates 6-week abortion ban in special session

by Sophia Chen
Iowa abortion ban

The Iowa Legislature witnessed escalating tensions on Tuesday during a special session dedicated solely to discussing abortion limitations. Republican lawmakers have been endeavoring to establish a new restriction, aiming to prohibit nearly all abortions following approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

A long day of committee gatherings, floor debates, and votes in both legislative chambers is expected to stretch late into the night. The vast majority of those protesting at the Capitol throughout the day vociferously opposed the proposed legislation.

Following the state Supreme Court’s refusal to reinstate a virtually identical law she signed in 2018, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds called for the unusual session. As it stands, abortion in Iowa is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The proposed bill, similar to the 2018 law, seeks to ban abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, typically around the six-week mark of pregnancy, often before many women realize they are pregnant.

Voices of abortion supporters reverberated throughout the rotunda and were audible in the rooms where state legislators convened in the morning and afternoon. Public members, both for and against the proposed bill, alternately presented their perspectives to legislators across nearly four hours in total.

Sara Eide from the Iowa Catholic Conference appealed to the lawmakers to vote in favor, arguing for the protection of vulnerable populations. Meanwhile, fertility nurse Hilary McAdoo argued against the six-week cutoff, calling it “impossible and irresponsible,” motivated by her two daughters.

The bill has faced criticism from Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst who objected to the urgent approach of Republican lawmakers, calling for a more thorough debate.

The 2018 law was deemed unconstitutional in 2019 based on affirmations of a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court and Iowa’s Supreme Court. Following a deadlock last month, the governor called lawmakers back to Des Moines.

Maggie DeWitte, the executive director of anti-abortion organization Pulse Life Advocates, supported the bill, asserting its time had come.

Under the proposed measure, limited circumstances such as rape, incest, life-threatening fetal abnormalities, and endangerment to the life of the pregnant woman would allow for an abortion beyond the six-week mark.

Democrats proposed amendments to widen the exceptions, but they were quickly dismissed. If passed, the bill is intended to take effect immediately upon the governor’s approval. In response, Planned Parenthood North Central States plans to swiftly challenge the law in court.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, Republican-led states have significantly curtailed abortion access. More than a dozen states now have bans with limited exceptions. Georgia, for instance, prohibits abortion after cardiac activity is detected, and several other states have similar restrictions pending court decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Iowa abortion ban

What is the Iowa Legislature currently debating?

The Iowa Legislature is currently debating a proposed bill that would ban nearly all abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. This contentious issue was the sole focus of a special legislative session.

Who ordered the special session on the abortion ban?

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds ordered the special session after the state Supreme Court declined to reinstate a similar law she signed in 2018.

What was the response of the public during the special session?

The majority of the demonstrators at the Iowa Capitol throughout the day were expressing loud opposition to the proposed bill. However, public members both for and against the proposed bill alternated in conveying their viewpoints to lawmakers.

What are the exceptions under the proposed abortion ban?

Under the proposed legislation, there are limited circumstances that would allow for an abortion beyond the six-week mark. These include cases of rape, incest, if the fetus has an abnormality “incompatible with life,” or if the pregnancy is endangering the life of the pregnant woman.

What actions are expected if the bill is passed?

If the proposed legislation is passed, it is expected to take immediate effect with the governor’s signature. However, Planned Parenthood North Central States has announced that they are prepared to challenge the law in court swiftly.

More about Iowa abortion ban

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AdamBenson July 12, 2023 - 6:01 am

these lawmakers are just doin their jobs, representing the majority of Iowans. Abortion isn’t healthcare, it’s ending an innocent life.

Dave1968 July 12, 2023 - 8:08 am

Bout time! Life begins at conception, this is just recognizing the facts. Kudos to the legislators with the courage to stand up for what’s right.

JennyZee July 12, 2023 - 1:31 pm

This is terrifying. Six weeks is often before many women even know they’re pregnant. the government has no business in personal decisions like this.

SarahJ July 12, 2023 - 2:04 pm

So disappointed to see this happening again. Why can’t women be trusted to make their own choices bout their bodies? Smh…

LilyGrace22 July 12, 2023 - 6:59 pm

The exceptions seem like a small concession but they’re incredibly restrictive. Having to report rape within 45 days? It’s not that simple…trauma doesn’t work on a schedule.


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