Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday at the Iowa state Capitol to protest a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks, targeting people before they even know they are pregnant.
Iowa currently allows abortion up to 20 weeks, and the majority of state residents—61 percent—support access to the procedure. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds had signed a six-week abortion ban in 2018, but that measure was struck down the following year in the courts. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, Reynolds asked the courts to reinstate the 2018 ban, but the state Supreme Court was deadlocked on the issue, leaving the 20-week law in place.
So last week, Reynolds summoned the state legislature back for a special session with “the sole and single purpose” of passing legislation that would ban abortion once a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected. Medical professionals warn that the term “fetal heartbeat” is misleading because six-week-old fetuses only have electrical pulses. There isn’t actually a heart yet, just clusters of cells.
The chants of “Shame!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Abortion bans have got to go!” were so loud they could be heard inside the chamber.
Lawmakers are expected to continue debating into the night, and could even vote on the measure at that time. The bill Reynolds is pushing includes an exception for rape, but only if the rape is “reported within forty-five days of the incident to a law enforcement agency or to a public or private health agency.”
Despite widespread public opposition, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly used special exceptions to force through abortion bans. In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster also called lawmakers back for a special session to pass an abortion ban, and then signed the measure into law with no warning to doctors. A judge blocked the measure in May while lawsuits against it play out.