Iowa legislature passes bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

On Tuesday, the Iowa Legislature passed Senate File 471, a bill that will, according to the Des Moines Register, “ban abortions once a pregnancy reaches 20 weeks and it establishes a three-day waiting period for women seeking any abortion.” Reportedly, abortion would be allowed solely to preserve the life or health of the mother, and not in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.

Laws which allow for exceptions for the mother’s “health” are essentially wide loopholes that can include physical, emotional, mental, or even financial health. And while an exception preserving the life of the mother may sound reasonable, abortion is the intentional and direct killing of human life, not the secondary and unintentional result of a medical treatment. The Association of Pro-Life Physicians states it this way:

When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy, if both lives cannot simultaneously be saved, then saving the mother’s life must be the primary aim.  If through our careful treatment of the mother’s illness the pre-born patient inadvertently dies or is injured, this is tragic and, if unintentional, is not unethical and is consistent with the pro-life ethic.  But the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary.

The Des Moines Register also reports that “Iowa would become the sixth state in the country to require a three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions.” Of the 27 states that have abortion waiting periods, most are 24 hours.

Governor Terry Branstad is expected to sign the legislation into law. However, the law itself seems to lack “teeth.” The Register notes:

The Iowa House previously amended the bill to strip out criminal penalties, though it does allow women to pursue civil cases against providers who perform illegal abortions. It also allows physicians to be disciplined by the Iowa Board of Medicine if they’re found to be in violation of the law.

According to the Washington Post, “[a]t least 19 other states have similar 20-week bans, which are based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Some have been stuck down by federal appeals courts, though the bulk of the bans are in effect.”

While the premise of fetal pain by 20 weeks may be “disputed,” multiple studies seem to confirm this to be the case, with the most recent study noting an “adult-like pattern of skin innervation [] established before the end of the first trimester, showing important intra- and inter-individual variations in nerve branches” along with “evidence for a differential vascularization of the male and female genital tracts concomitant with sex determination.”

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