Iowa Senate committee moves 'fetal heartbeat' bill forward, now eligible for Senate vote

A packed room at the Iowa Statehouse to hear the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on a bill that would ban most abortions in Iowa after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Caroline Cummings).

In a packed room at the Statehouse, a Senate committee voted Monday night to move forward a controversial bill that would ban nearly all abortions in Iowa.

Testimony from lawmakers was short, with Sen. Janet Peterson, D-Des Moines, giving comments that mirrored those she gave last week at the bill's subcommittee meeting.

"This bill is dangerous; this bill is unconstitutional," she asserted, saying that this bill is an attack on women, girls and their healthcare. She warned the state could lose its only OB-GYN residency program at the University of Iowa, meaning fewer of these doctors across the state.

"This bill will make Iowa and OB-GYN desert and tell Iowa girls and women that Republicans do not care about your ability to access good care," Peterson said.

The bill advanced by an 8-5 vote, along party lines.

The legislation would ban abortions in Iowa, except in some medical emergencies, after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks. Critics warn that this bill would effectively bar some women from having even the option to have an abortion.

If doctors were to perform an abortion after a heartbeat is heard, they could be charged with a Class D felony.

Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, say it's a matter of protecting the lives of all Iowans. Supporters cheered when the meeting adjourned.

“In this room with me tonight is an 18 year old man whose beating heart I could’ve chosen to stop. I think it’s a horrific reflection and barbaric practice that that could’ve been my choice," Sinclair said.

This bill comes on the heels of legislation passed last session barring abortions in the state after six weeks. Because this bill made it through a full committee this week, it's eligible for consideration on the Senate floor.

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