Fetal Heartbeat Bill Stalls; House GOP Regroups on Abortion Legislation

Mar 29, 2017

A controversial proposal to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat has been removed from the GOP agenda in the Iowa House, roughly 24 hours after it was introduced.   

Republicans will now return their attention to a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  

This is the legislation we have consensus on. -Rep. Joel Fry

“This is the legislation we have consensus on,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joel Fry (R-Osceola).   “We’ve been working over the last few hours trying to get consensus within our caucus.”

“We did a lot of listening in the last 24 hours,” said Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta), chair of the House Human Resources Committee.

The GOP caucus in the House has been considering various approaches to limiting abortions throughout the session, including declaring life to begin at conception, essentially banning all abortions.

The fetal heartbeat bill and the life at conception bill would almost certainly have been challenged in court.

Courts have thrown out 20-week bans in other states.

We did a lot of listening in the last 24 hours. -Rep. Shannon Lundgren

Lundgren calls the bill an incremental step.

“This gives us a chance to start saving lives immediately when this gets enacted,” Lundgren said.

“Generally we support the 20-week restriction on abortion,” said Iowa Catholic Conference spokesman Tom Chapman.   “We've been working on that over the last few weeks in the legislature.”

A 20-week ban passed the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate on a largely party-line vote last month, and House Democrats oppose the ban.

“We still have deep concerns about Republican plans to take away a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions," said Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames.) "  The latest version offered by Republicans does not have exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomaly and only narrow exceptions for life or health of the mother. " 

The Senate bill contains an exception for fetal anomalies.    The House bill makes exceptions only for the life or serious injury to the mother.  

The House also removes criminal penalties for providers that were part of the Senate bill.   The House bill includes civil penalties for physicians.