Fetal heartbeat bill clears Iowa Legislature


DES MOINES – A bill described by some as the most restrictive abortion legislation in the nation has been sent to the desk of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. The governor has not stated whether she will sign the bill, which the Iowa Legislature passed in the middle of the night May 2.  Depending on when the legislature adjourns, the governor will have three days or 30 days to sign it.

The so-called fetal heartbeat bill would prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected (about six weeks). The legislation began as an amendment to Senate File 359, which would stop trafficking in the fetal body parts which remain following an elective abortion. 

“As Pope Francis has said, ‘Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.’ We call upon the judiciary to once again recognize that all life should be protected from the moment of conception to natural death,” Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, said in response to the bill’s passage.

Specifically, the bill requires:


*In testing for a detectable fetal heartbeat, the physician shall perform an abdominal ultrasound, necessary to detect a fetal heartbeat according to standard medical practice.

*After testing the pregnant woman for a detectable heartbeat, the physician shall inform the pregnant woman in writing whether a fetal heartbeat was detected, and if so, that an abortion is 


*The pregnant woman will sign a form acknowledging that she has received the written information provided by the physician.

*A physician shall not perform an abortion on a pregnant woman whose unborn child has been determined to have a detectable fetal heartbeat unless the physician determines that a medical emergency exists or when the abortion is medically necessary (up until 20 weeks).

A medical emergency would apply to an abortion performed to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy. It would also apply if continuation of the pregnancy would create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman. It would not apply to abortions sought because of psychological conditions, emotional conditions, familial conditions, or the woman’s age.

Medically necessary exceptions (which were added to the bill):

*The pregnancy was the result of a rape and is reported within 45 days of the incident to a law enforcement agency or to a public or private health agency which may include a family physician.

-Barb Arland Fye
The Catholic Messenger

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