(OSV News) — During a special session July 11, the Iowa Legislature passed a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Once Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signs the measure July 14, it will take effect immediately.
Hours after the Iowa Legislature passed the measure, abortion advocates filed a legal challenge July 12 in Iowa District Court for Polk County seeking a temporary injunction that would prevent enforcement of the law. In response, Reynolds said she will sign the bill into law as planned.
Unless the court intervenes, the law would take effect immediately July 14. Currently, abortion is legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill passed just before midnight with only Republican votes after more than 14 hours of testimony from people on both sides of the abortion issue. An AP story said the vote took place “over the vocal — and sometimes tense — objections from Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocates protesting at the Capitol.”
Reynolds had called the Legislature back into the special session “with the sole purpose of enacting legislation that addresses abortion and protects unborn lives” after the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked June 16 in a 3-3 vote and left an injunction in place against a 2018 “heartbeat” law. That law prohibited abortions after a heartbeat could be detected — approximately six weeks into pregnancy — but has never been enforced.
The new measure, which is identical to the earlier law also will prohibit almost all abortions once cardiac activity can be detected. Opponents of the measure say six weeks is before many women even know they are pregnant.
HF 732, as the measure is known, includes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.
Ruth Richardson, CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said immediately after its passage that her organization was “prepared to challenge this” in court. The organization, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, tweeted: “Every person deserves the freedom to control their lives, bodies, and futures. #BansOffOurBodies.”
The Des Moines-based ACLU of Iowa tweeted, “The Iowa Legislature has passed a bill that will eliminate nearly all abortions. It now goes to Gov. Reynolds’ desk for signature. Along with @ppnorthcentral and @EmmaGoldmanIowa, we’ll fight to protect reproductive rights — including filing a lawsuit to block this cruel law.”
The Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, Iowa — referenced in the ACLU of Iowa’s tweet — describes itself as “a not-for-profit independent organization founded in 1973 by a group of women driven by feminist ideals” that exists “to empower people of all gender and sexual identities in all life stages through the provision of quality reproductive health care that includes abortion services.”
Once these three groups filed the lawsuit as promised, the ACLU of Iowa said in a July 12 statement on its website, “HF 732 bans abortion before many people know they are pregnant and is virtually identical to a 2018 law blocked by the Iowa Supreme Court just weeks ago.”
The bill “violates Iowans’ constitutional rights to abortion and substantive due process. The ban also violates the Iowa Constitution’s Inalienable Rights Clause, which explicitly guarantees those rights to women and guarantees equal protection under state law,” said the ACLU.
After the Legislature’s vote, Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats For Life of America, tweeted a message for both sides of the abortion issue: “We urge the Iowa Governor to immediately provide information about federal, state, and local resources to support pregnant women. Planned Parenthood needs to pivot and start offering pre and postnatal care in their Iowa facilities since abortion will no longer be an option.”
In a statement issued after the late July 11 vote, Reynolds said, “The Iowa Supreme Court questioned whether this legislature would pass the same law they did in 2018, and today they have a clear answer. The voices of Iowans and their democratically elected representatives cannot be ignored any longer, and justice for the unborn should not be delayed.”
“As a pro-life Governor, I am also committed to continuing policies to support women in planning for motherhood, promote the importance of fatherhood, and encourage strong families. Our state and country will be stronger because of it,” she said.
Ahead of the special session, the Iowa Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops on public policy, said it supported efforts by lawmakers to limit the harm of abortion to the greatest extent possible.
“Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,’ including through the civil law,” the conference said, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
During the marathon special legislative sessions, Sara Eide, the conference’s associate director, urged lawmakers to pass the abortion ban, saying, “The unborn child is a distinct human life with her own value, with her own DNA, and with her own right to life and right to legal protections,” she said. “As a state and as a society, we should commit ourselves to protect all vulnerable populations wherever we find them.”
According to the AP, for much of the special session’s morning and afternoon, “chants from abortion advocates echoed through the rotunda and could be heard from rooms where state representatives and senators were meeting in the morning and afternoon.”
“Iowans recognize the humanity of unborn children with beating hearts and won’t rest until they are protected. We thank the legislature for acting swiftly on the will of the people,” Adam Schwend, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America’s Western regional state director, said in a statement. He was among those testifying in favor of the ban.
“We’re especially grateful to Gov. Reynolds for calling this special session and her tireless leadership in the fight for life over the years. These protections will save lives,” he added.
Julie Asher is senior editor for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @jlasher. Contributing to this story was Barb Arland-Fye, editor of The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport.