Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs new six-week abortion ban into law

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(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new abortion bill into law Friday banning the procedure after six weeks.

It comes after lawmakers held a special session on Tuesday with the "sole purpose" of passing the legislation.

"We have a responsibility not only to protect the unborn in law, but to change the destructive culture of abortion that still exists in a post-Roe world," Reynolds said in statement as she signed the bill during the Family Leadership Summit, a conference hosted by evangelical Christian conservative Bob Vander Plaats and his group, the Family Leader.

"Even with the fetal heartbeat bill, the fight continues for a robust culture of life that welcomes children, supports mothers, and involves fathers. As a pro-life governor, I will continue to promote policies designed to surround every person involved in a pregnancy with protection, love, and support."

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blasted the signing, calling the ban "extreme."

"Iowa’s new law will penalize health care providers and cause delays and denials of health and life-saving care," she said. "The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to defend access to reproductive health care and fight any attempts to pass a national abortion ban."

Less than a month ago, the state's Supreme Court was deadlocked on whether a lower court's injunction of a six-week abortion ban should be dissolved, leaving the procedure legal in Iowa.

In response, Reynolds had blasted the court's decision -- saying it had failed to exercise its authority -- and called for the special session.

"I believe the pro-life movement is the most important human rights cause of our time," Reynolds said in a statement. "Not only will I continue to fight against the inhumanity of abortion, but I will also remain committed to supporting women in planning for motherhood, promoting fatherhood and parenting, and continuing policies that encourage strong families."

Because Republicans hold a majority in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives, the new legislation was likely to pass.

The bill would limit abortion once cardiac activity can be detected, which typically occurs around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant. Abortion in Iowa is currently legal up to 20 weeks.

There are exceptions for medical emergencies and for rape and incest, as long as they are reported to law enforcement or to a health agency within 45 days and 145 days, respectively.

With the ban is signed into law, Iowa will join several other states that have passed so-called "heartbeat bills," including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas.

Ohio and South Carolina have also passed six-week abortion bans. Both are currently facing legal challenges and Iowa could be next.

On Wednesday, several groups including Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Emma Goldman Clinic, and the ACLU of Iowa filed a challenge to the ban.

"While the ban contains some so-called exceptions, the reality is that the vast majority of Iowans will be unable to access abortion. In addition to narrow exceptions for the life of a pregnant person and certain medical emergencies, the bill also purports to provide exceptions to the ban for certain survivors of rape and incest, those experiencing miscarriage, and those with particular fetal diagnoses," the groups said in a press release. "However, each exception includes significant barriers to accessing care. The experiences of patients and providers across the country have demonstrated that so-called exceptions like those in Iowa’s abortion ban are unworkable, put patients’ lives at risk, and further deprive people of their reproductive freedom."

Impassioned abortion rights demonstrators rallied in protest of the bill, during and after Tuesday's proceedings.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa tweeted Monday, calling for demonstrators to protest the special session at the Iowa State Capitol.

"Now is the time to get loud and show up in force at the Capitol to fight back against attacks on abortion access," the group wrote. "Together, we will make our voices heard and hold elected officials accountable for any vote they take to restrict abortion."

The previous abortion ban, signed into law by Reynolds in 2018, also prevented abortion after six weeks. However, the law was permanently struck down by a district court in January 2019, which ruled that the law violated the Iowa constitution and that there was no state interest in banning abortions so early in pregnancy.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, at least 15 states have ceased nearly all abortion services, according to an ABC News tally.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023 at 4:59PM by Mary Kekatos and Kendall Ross, ABC News Permalink