A proposed ban on abortions if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat is scheduled for debate this afternoon in a House committee.
“We ran on pro-life issues and I think our voters, our constituents are looking to us to make a very bold statement this year,” Representative Shannon Lundgren, a Republican from Peosta, said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
Earlier this month the Republican-led Iowa Senate endorsed a ban on abortions after the 20th week of a pregnancy.
Democrats say a timeline that’s connected to the detection of a fetal heartbeat would set the ban at the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, before some women realize they are pregnant.
“This bill would take away a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions before she would have known she had a decision to make,” Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said during a news conference late Tuesday afternoon.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake, the top Republican in the legislature, told reporters there enough GOP votes on the committee to pass the fetal heartbeat proposal.
“Life is an important topic to Iowans,” Upmeyer said late Tuesday afternoon. “We hear that at the doors, at forums, so this is another opportunity to pass a bill, perhaps, that is a pro-life bill and we’ll see where it goes.”
Wessel-Kroeschell said the bill would not grant exceptions if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
“The extreme legislation would make most safe, legal abortions illegal in Iowa,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “Clearly, we are very concerned…This is an all-out assault on women and a sneak attack from Republicans at the last minute.”
This Friday is the deadline for an abortion policy bill to clear the House Human Resources Committee and Democrats complain the proposal was not revealed until Tuesday afternoon.
Upmeyer said compared to the idea of passing an abortion ban based on the moment of conception, an abortion ban based on the time a heartbeat can be detected is an easier concept.
“You know when that point in time is,” Upmeyer said.
Lundgren called the heartbeat a “concrete” measurement.
“Life at a heartbeat. It’s hard to deny it. It’s there,” Lundgren told Radio Iowa Tuesday evening. “…We use the detection of a heartbeat or lack of a heartbeat at the end of life. It makes common sense to use the detection of a heartbeat at the beginning of life.”
Democrats say court challenges in two other states have derailed similar abortion bans that were based on the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Wessel-Kroeschell predicted this bill would face a similar fate if it becomes law in Iowa.
“We can’t take away the decisions that women make about their health care,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “It’s just not right.”
The House Human Resources Committee convened briefly late Tuesday evening, then adjourned. The panel’s Republican chairman said the committee would reconvene sometime after 3 p.m. today.
Representative Joel Fry, a Republican from Osceola who leads the committee, said that would give Democrats time to review the GOP’s proposal and draft amendments to it.