Earlier this week, the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature passed a so-called “heartbeat bill” banning abortion at around six weeks of gestation, when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant. Reproductive justice advocates say the legislation, which only provides few exceptions, would effectively make abortion illegal in the state.
Reynolds, an anti-abortion lawmaker, signed the bill on Friday. Though banning abortion at (and beyond) six weeks is popular among anti-choice lawmakers, passing this type of legislation is not that easy. For example, a similar effort in Ohio failed in 2016 when Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the state's "heartbeat bill."
“This is a sad day for women and families in Iowa—their legislature and governor has thrown away their ability to plan their families and their futures. Banning abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant, this law will undoubtedly be challenged by the courts like other unconstitutional abortion bans before it," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
She added: "This law is not just about the women and families of Iowa, it’s about all Americans having the right to decide if, when, and how to have a family. This should be deeply concerning to anyone who believes women should be allowed to make decisions about their bodies and control their destinies, and we now look to the courts to defend our essential human rights."
Abortion rates have declined nationwide in the last years, but research has found the procedure is still fairly common: About one in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 91.7% of abortions take place in the first trimester.
The new law has an exception for survivors of rape or incest, but it comes with a few caveats. In order to be allowed to undergo the procedure, the pregnant person would have to report the rape to the authorities or a physician within 45 days of the “incident." Those who find themselves pregnant because of incest would have a period of 140 days to report the situation in order to be allowed an abortion.
Iowa’s new ban is just one of many new abortion restrictions that have been pushed forward in recent months. Mississippi recently banned abortion at 15 weeks, though a federal judge blocked the law. In Ohio, anti-choice lawmakers introduced a total ban on abortion and proposed to charge with murder — a crime punishable by the death penalty in the state — both physicians who provide abortion care and women who undergo the procedure.
The law is likely to be challenged in court. Pro-choice advocates say it is unconstitutional, since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability in 1992. (Most researchers have said a fetus is not considered viable before 20 weeks of pregnancy.) Since that ruling, banning abortion before the 20-week mark has been interpreted by the courts as unconstitutional.
“Politicians in Iowa are hell bent on controlling women’s bodies, taking away our rights, and blocking access to health care. People will not stand for it, and we will not stand for it," Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "Now is the time for us to unite and fight for every person’s right to access the care they need. Gov. Reynolds, we’ll see you in court. We will fight for our patients rights and access to care with everything we’ve got.”
This story was originally published on May 2 at 9:20 a.m. It has since been updated.
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