Reynolds ordered the rare session after the state Supreme Court refused in June to reinstate a virtually identical law he signed in 2018.
« The Iowa Supreme Court has questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer, » Reynolds said in a statement. « The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives can no longer be ignored and justice for the unborn should not be delayed. »
Abortion is currently legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation will go into effect immediately with the governor’s signature on Friday. It will ban almost all miscarriages once heart activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks into the pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.
Preparations were already underway to quickly file lawsuits in court and block the measure once Reynolds signed it into law.
“The ACLU of Iowa, Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic continue to be committed to protecting the reproductive rights of Iowa residents to control their bodies and lives, their health and safety, including submitting a lawsuit to block this reckless and cruel law,” ACLU Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood North Central States said it will send patients out of state if they are scheduled for abortions in the coming weeks. The organization, the largest provider of abortions in the state, will continue to provide care for patients who present before heart activity is detected.
There are limited circumstances under the measure that would allow for an abortion after that point in a pregnancy when heart activity is detected — such as rape, if reported to law enforcement or a health care professional within 45 days; incest, if reported within 145 days; if the fetus has a fetal anomaly « incompatible with life »; and if the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant woman.
For much of the morning and afternoon, the chants of abortion advocates echoed in the rotunda and were heard from the rooms where state representatives and senators met in the morning and afternoon. Members of the public for and against the bill took turns relaying their views to lawmakers in both houses for nearly four hours total.
Sara Eide of the Iowa Catholic Conference encouraged lawmakers to vote for it.
« The unborn child is a distinct human life with its own value, with its own DNA, and with its own right to life and legal protection, » he said. “As a state and as a society, we should be committed to protecting all vulnerable populations wherever we find them.”
Hilary McAdoo, a fertility nurse, said her two daughters motivated her to voice her opposition on Tuesday.
« Just because a person has the ability to get pregnant doesn’t mean they should be forced to become a mother, » she said. « People before me want to rule women’s bodies without understanding how they work. »
McAdoo called the six-week limit « impossible and irresponsible ».
Read like Iowa’s abortion ban when a « fetal heartbeat » can be detected, a concept that doesn’t translate easily into medical science. That’s because at the point where advanced technology can detect that first visual beat, the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and doesn’t have a heart. An embryo is defined as a fetus starting from the 11th week of pregnancy, medical experts say.
A district court declared the 2018 law unconstitutional in 2019 based on rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court that affirmed a woman’s fundamental constitutional right to an abortion.
After both bodies overturned those rulings last year, the governor sought to reinstate the 2018 law. But last month the state high court deadlocked without ruling on the merits of an abortion ban, leaving the law permanently blocked.
And so Reynolds called lawmakers back to Des Moines.
Democratic lawmakers proposed language changes to broaden the exceptions, which were quickly rejected.
« Iowa women are less free than they were a week ago and it’s because of the work of Republicans in the legislature and the governor, » said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, who expressed concern about the chaos and the immediate confusion if and when the bill is signed into law.
“We will spend every day between now and Election Day letting voters know that the Republican legislature has gone too far, gone too far, and voted against the best interests of everyday Iowans,” he added.
Most Republican-led states drastically restricted abortion access in the year the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and handed over authority over abortion laws to the states. More than a dozen states have bans with limited exceptions, and one state, Georgia, bans abortions after heart activity is detected. Several other states have similar restrictions that are pending court rulings.