Previous to this bill being signed, Iowa already imposed numerous restrictions on abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions after 20 weeks gestation are banned in the state unless the woman’s life is endangered, and public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal anomaly. The governor must approve each Medicaid-funded abortion. Women are also forced to undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion, and a pregnant minors’ parent or parents must be notified before the procedure can be performed.
In this context, Iowa’s heartbeat bill isn’t entirely unexpected. But it is unlikely to go into effect in light of judicial precedent. Federal courts have already thwarted similar attempts to ban abortions in Ohio, North Dakota and elsewhere.
So what’s the endgame here? As Robyn Marty has previously noted: “Anti-abortion groups no longer fear that the Supreme Court, given its current and future mix of justices, will uphold Roe if another case makes its way there.” In other words, they’re attempting to use this bill as a test case to get the issue in front of the Supreme Court, where they hope a post-Trump court will gut abortion rights nationwide.
Indeed, state Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) publicly declared as much during the bill’s floor debate: "Today we will begin this journey as Iowa becomes ground zero nationally for the life movement and the starting line back to the Supreme Court. I believe this bill will be the vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade."
Bertrand’s “opportunity” is a dystopian nightmare for women. Imposing such a punitive law would decimate women’s self-determination by eliminating the ability to plan their families. And make no mistake: low-income and financially overburdened women have been shown to suffer the brunt of other, similar abortion bans (as those with financial resources are better able to travel out of state to seek abortion care).
Despite declaring themselves champions of the unborn, these legislators are defiling the very concept of life — and motherhood. Bringing a child into the world should be done willingly, not as a form of punishment derived from the rigid ideological beliefs of anti-abortion extremists. As a mother, I firmly believe that every child deserves a parent who is willing to bear the lifelong responsibilities of parenting with love and care.
Despite declaring themselves champions of the unborn, these legislators are defiling the very concept of life — and motherhood.
If Iowa’s lawmakers truly want to reduce the number of abortions in their state, they should focus their efforts on increasing access to family planning services and contraception. But they haven’t; in fact, Iowa shuttered one-third of its Planned Parenthood centers in 2017, which was followed by a rise in STDs and quite possibly unintended pregnancies.
The writing is on the wall: Women’s lives and health do not matter to Iowa’s Republican legislature or governor. If we’re not careful, the rest of the country may soon feel draconian ripple effects coming out of the heartland.
Maureen Shaw is a writer, activist and proud mama of two. Her writing has appeared widely online, including in Quartz, Teen Vogue, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Rewire, ThinkProgress, Romper, Parents and more. She tweets prolifically at @MaureenShaw.
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