DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa House Republicans on Wednesday advanced a legislative effort to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected by adding the measure to a separate bill.
A Republican-led panel agreed to approve legislation that would ban the sale of fetal tissue. The heartbeat provision, which would prohibit most abortions as early as 6 weeks of pregnancy, was tacked on during the meeting.
The changes will need approval in the House Human Resources Committee, which is expected to discuss it Thursday. The bill would then be ready for a floor vote in the full GOP-majority House, before heading to the Republican-led Senate for another vote.
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell of Ames, the lone Democrat on the three-person House subcommittee that met Wednesday, criticized the legislative maneuver of effectively combining two separate bills.
“I am disappointed that we have … basically a bait-and-switch,” she said.
Rep. Shannon Lundgren, a Peosta Republican who led the panel, defended the bill’s change in scope and dismissed the criticism. Lundgren argued the Iowa Senate passed a similar heartbeat bill earlier this year, so its discussion isn’t new.
“The Senate sent a bill over to us to debate, we just chose to add it on to this bill as an amendment,” she said.
Lundgren also pointed out that House Republicans shared their plans Tuesday with Democrats.
The House heartbeat provision is similar to the Senate proposal, though the House version would remove proposed criminal penalties against a doctor who performs an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
The proposed ban on the sale of fetal tissue would prohibit various uses of the tissue. There would be exemptions, including for tissue from a stillbirth or spontaneous termination of a pregnancy.
Federal law already prohibits profiting from fetal tissue donation.
Republicans, who have majorities in both chambers, have advanced several abortion restrictions since they took complete control of the Iowa Legislature after the 2016 election. They passed a bill last session that bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. They also added an amendment that would require a pregnant woman to wait three days before getting an abortion. That provision is not in effect amid a lawsuit.
Mississippi lawmakers this month approved a bill that would make most abortions illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That bill is awaiting that state’s signature, but the legislation is expected to trigger a court challenge. Opponents argue such a ban violates U.S. Supreme Court rulings that affirm women have a legal right to abortion.
Iowa’s ban after detection of a heartbeat, if approved, is expected to face similar litigation.
Anti-abortion groups applauded the tissue ban and the heartbeat provision. Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for Iowa, said during testimony that death is determined when the heart stops beating.
“It is not hard then to draw the logical conclusion that when there is a heartbeat, the person is alive,” she said.
Leah Vanden Bosch of West Des Moines testified against the heartbeat provision in the same manner she did when it moved through the Senate earlier this session. She said she’s had an abortion, and the choice prevented her from killing herself. She said that choice would have been taken away with the heartbeat ban.
“You cannot decide something so life-changing for a woman,” Vanden Bosch told the panel. “You don’t know her mental state or the limits to which she can be pushed.”