Iowa’s past anti-abortion legislation and the enactment of the Texas Heartbeat Act could influence a similar bill in Iowa.
Written on Sept 23, 2021
This September, a new law in Texas went into effect that would ban almost all abortions after a physician detects a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks, leading to some speculating if a copycat law could be introduced in Iowa.
The Texas bill, SB 8 or the Texas Heartbeat Act, is one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the US and only offers exceptions to those whom a physician believes has a medical emergency.
This bill also encourages the public to uphold this law by allowing any person to bring a civil action against someone who performs an abortion or aids and abets the inducement of abortion.
In May 2018, Iowa passed its own “fetal heartbeat” bill when Gov. Kim Reynold’s signed Senate File 359 into law, but it was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court shortly after in a decision that declared abortion as a fundamental right under the Iowa Constitution.
Gov. Reynolds has continued to fight to restrict access to abortion despite this decision.
In July, Gov. Reynolds joined 11 Iowa Republicans in signing a legal brief file that urged the Supreme Court to overturn the historic ruling that legalized abortion, Roe v. Wade, as well as many other court cases addressing abortion.
“For too long, this precedent has trampled on state sovereignty and destroyed the lives of millions of unborn babies,” Gov. Reynolds said. “I am proud to join with governors from across the country to take a stand for life and democratic self-government.”
Again in September, Gov. Reynolds joined 60 Republican politicians in signing another brief, urging the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn the 2018 ruling that declared abortion a fundamental right.
Copycat bill potential
Many organizations believe that due to the implementation of the Texas fetal heartbeat bill and Gov. Reynold’s previous actions, a copycat bill could be introduced in Iowa.
Previously, Jamie Burch Elliott, Public Affairs Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, has said she “would anticipate a copycat law” in Iowa.
In a Facebook Livestream from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, Burch Elliott said “it will definitely translate to policy change in Iowa in the near future.”
However, some organizations that support the Texas fetal heartbeat bill, are not so sure if or when it will happen in Iowa.
Drew Zahn, the Director of Communications at The FAMILY Leader, says they “applaud Texas and other states for” passing these heartbeat bills, and cited the 2018 ruling as a “radical ruling from the Iowa State Supreme Court that threatens to usher in extremist, late-term abortion and force Iowans to pay for it.”
When it comes to this specific Texas bill, however, he thinks it’s still too soon to know what will happen in Iowa.
“Now it’s too early to say whether a law like the Texas statute would work in Iowa – different states, codes, and court precedents,” he said.
But, that does not mean they would not support it if it were introduced in Iowa.
“If the Texas law proves effective at saving innocent lives, then it is only right that Iowa considers whether we could adopt a similar statute,” he said.
Des Moines resident Lenin Cardwell, 23, has recognized the possibility of this becoming law too.
“I think what concerns me about the Texas bill in relation to Iowa,” she said. “Is that we’ve tried to pass bills like this multiple times and the fact that it’s basically being upheld in Texas could cause other states to follow in its path and I could see Iowa doing the same exact thing.”
What worries her the most she said is that the ban is as early as six weeks pregnant, since “virtually no one knows they’re even pregnant then.”
In addition to Texas
Along with the passing of the Texas fetal heartbeat bill, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and Burch Elliott thinks that is a defining factor in Iowa’s case.
“When you bring that back to Iowa,” she said. “When you look at this pending anti-abortion constitutional amendment, you see that Iowa could be facing a reality in which abortion is not legal.”
The case is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which argues the constitutionality of a Mississippi law prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court will hear the argument on Dec. 1, 2021.
Texas is already seeing its first case under this new law. This week, two separate lawsuits were filed against a San Antonio doctor who wrote about performing an abortion in an opinion column for the Washington Post.
Neither lawsuit originated is from Texas, though. Of the two men who filed lawsuits, one was from Arkansas and one was from Illinois. While this case is just beginning, other states are beginning to follow suit.
Just yesterday, a Florida lawmaker proposed a restrictive abortion bill very similar to the one in Texas. The bill, like Texas, would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, and would allow citizens to bring a civil action against abortion providers.
Although this is the first state to introduce a bill like Texas, due to Gov. Reynold’s and Iowa Republican’s previous actions, the same could soon come to Iowa.