Iowa lawmakers decided not to go forward with a bill that would have banned abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks.
The Globe Gazette reported that a state house committee passed a 20-week abortion ban instead, following concerns from other Republicans in the state legislature about the ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill, which critics say would have been the strictest abortion restriction in the country. Republican State Rep. Shannon Lundgren, who co-sponsored the legislation, said that the 20-week ban was more likely to stand up in court. “We would be protecting about 51 babies a year by going this route,” Lundgren told the Globe Gazette. “We are going to make an impact immediately.”
The heartbeat bill also included amendments to require a woman to get an ultrasound 72 hours before an abortion and possible criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions, according to the Associated Press. Those provisions were also removed from the bill that ultimately passed the committee.
“Yesterday’s bill was probably the most extreme bill I’ve ever seen,” Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell told the Globe Gazette. “It’s still a bad bill, but [the 20-week ban] isn’t as bad as yesterday’s.”
Some anti-abortion activists oppose heartbeat bills because the legislation is unlikely to survive a legal battle. In December, Ohio’s state legislature passed its own heartbeat bill, which was later vetoed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Earlier this month, a Tennessee House subcommittee delayed its own version of the legislation, which the state’s attorney general called “constitutionally suspect.”