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Iowa Republicans ‘Reshape Abortion Access’ With Onerous Restrictions (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

“It will fundamentally change how abortion is accessed in Iowa, and not for the better," said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issue manager at the Guttmacher Institute.

UPDATE, May 5, 3:22 p.m.: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Friday signed the GOP-held legislature’s 20-week abortion ban and a 72-hour forced waiting period. The bill faces a legal challenge, Reuters reported.

The Republican-controlled Iowa legislature on Tuesday passed a ban on abortion after 20 weeks and imposed a three-day waiting period prior to terminating a pregnancy.

Iowa Democrats in recent years had been able to block passage of similar anti-choice bills.

Republicans in 2016 gained control of the Iowa State Senate for the first time in more than a decade, and Democrats argue the GOP has used that majority to push through “hot-button issue after hot-button issue.”

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Iowa is now set to become the 21st state to pass a 20-week abortion ban. Twenty-week abortion bans have been blocked by the courts in Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho.

Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, described the legislation as “unprecedented and appalling.”

“With this vote, Iowa has gone from a state that supports women and families, to one that is turning back the clock 50 years. Lawmakers’ objectives are to shame women, and place undue and unconstitutional burdens on their attempts to access safe and legal abortion,” Lopez said in a statement.

SF 471 would amend state law regarding feticide to prohibit abortion if a pregnancy has reached 20 weeks post-fertilization or if the fetus achieves viability.

Included in the legislation is a forced 72-hour waiting period and a forced ultrasound requirement. 

While speaking in favor of the forced waiting period, state Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) compared a pregnant person seeking abortion care to someone purchasing a timeshare, reported Radio Iowa.

“No one would buy a timeshare if they were able to go home and talk to their friends, talk to the neighbors, pray about it, sleep on it and talk to people they trusted,” Chelgren said. “Anyone who wants to get an abortion and has made that decision can do so under this bill .… All they have to do is wait 72 hours to make sure that that decision was right because it’s an irreversible decision.”

Utah’s GOP-backed 72-hour waiting period dissuades almost no one from receiving abortion care, according to research released last year. Five states have passed laws requiring a 72-hour waiting period before a pregnant person can terminate a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The Iowa bill includes an exception to preserve the life of the pregnant person or to prevent irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function. There are no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities.

The state senate on Tuesday gave final approval of the bill in a 30-20 vote along party lines, after the senate approved house changes made to the legislation following a failed attempt to include a total ban on abortion.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who is expected to sign the bill.  

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issue manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told the Mason City Globe Gazette that the legislation would have a dramatic impact on reproductive rights in the state.

“This bill is going to reshape abortion access in the whole state,” Nash said. “It will fundamentally change how abortion is accessed in Iowa, and not for the better.”

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