Mark Chelgren.

A bill to allow women who get abortions to sue the doctor who performed the procedure for emotional distress at any point in her lifetime has cleared its first hurdle in the state senate.

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, is the bill’s author.

“To make sure we’re protecting women,” Chelgren said today, “so that if they have mental health issues or mental health challenges, that there is a responsible party.”

No other state has such a law. Chelgren and other legislators who back the bill say they’ll consider adjustments, but the concept is now eligible for debate in a senate committee. Erin Davison-Rippey of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said the bill would set a “disturbing standard.”

“This bill really is a blatant attempt to intimidate abortion providers,” Davison-Rippey said, “providers who provide a safe and legal procedure.”

Three senators conducting an initial review of the bill heard from opponents and supporters during an hour-long meeting late this afternoon.

AUDIO of subcommittee meeting, 67:00

Chuck Hurley of The Family Leader, a Christian conservative group, told senators it sometimes takes decades for a woman’s “dormant guilt” over an abortion to cause “mental torment.”

“It is not safe for the baby ever and it is not safe for many, many millions of women as well,” Hurley said.

Daniel Zeno of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said the bill would ultimately block access to abortion.

“This bill’s intent is clear,” Zeno said, “to demonize abortion providers…to shame women.”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds was asked about the bill this morning, but Reynolds told reporters she’ll wait until the legislation is in its “final form” before commenting on it.