Rape survivors and persons conceived in rape fight ‘exceptions’ in Iowa’s heartbeat law

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Editor’s Note: Live Action works to maintain the highest standards of journalistic integrity. Live Action has looked into key elements of Ms. Christie’s testimony and personal story and has found them to be credible. This post has been edited since its original publication.

Save the 1, a pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion — including the abortion of preborn children conceived in rape or incest, or those diagnosed with a fetal abnormality — is fighting to remove the “exceptions” rule added to Iowa’s new heartbeat law. They argue that the law, which outlaws abortion once a heartbeat is detected, should protect all preborn children regardless of the circumstances of their conception.

In February, the heartbeat bill without exceptions passed in the Iowa Senate, but the final bill included the exceptions in order to appease some House Republicans who refused to support the law without them.

“It’s demoralizing. It’s dehumanizing,” international speaker, attorney, and Save the 1 founder Rebecca Kiessling told Live Action News. “Our hearts beat too.” Kiessling was conceived through rape and has advocated against rape exceptions in other state laws.

Conceived in rape

Rebecca Kiessling, Pro-Life Speaker

“I spoke and people said that it was very powerful and that it was very meaningful,” rape survivor Jennifer Christie told Live Action News. “When we heard there were exceptions, I felt completely betrayed. It was really for show that they brought me in. They turned around after telling me my story is so uplifting and the next thing I know they are willing to sacrifice my son. It was very difficult for me to wrap my head around something like that.”


The video of Christie’s moving testimony in which she defended her son’s right to life went viral. She told Live Action News that she “couldn’t possibly look at my child one day and say I didn’t want to fight for him.”

The exception to continue to allow the abortion of only certain children was added to the bill under the guise of “medical necessity.” But children conceived in rape or incest would not need to be killed through abortion for medical reasons. In reality, it is never medically necessary to abort a child – no matter their circumstances, as explained in this video by former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino:


In addition to rape and incest cases, included under “medically necessary” are children who have been diagnosed with a condition that the doctor deems “incompatible with life.” However, one doctor’s opinion on a child’s quality or quantity of life is virtually meaningless. Take Bella Santorum, for example. She was labeled “incompatible with life” but she recently celebrated her tenth birthday. Just because one doctor decides a person’s life has less value doesn’t make it true. Every human being has equal and intrinsic value. It is never medically necessary to kill someone.

Brad and Jesi Smith, pro-life speakers and board members of Save the 1, say they support heartbeat laws, but want their daughter and other children like her to be equally protected. The Smiths’ daughter, Faith, has Trisomy 18 and doctors labeled her as “incompatible with life.” Despite this diagnosis, with proper health care and treatments, Faith is now doing well and is nine years old.

“We’d like the court to recognize that if you’re going to say someone is a human being and deserves protection but some people don’t, it’s discrimination,” explained Brad Smith.

Bella Santorum, incompatible with life

Doctors said Bella Santorum was incompatible with life, but she just celebrated her First Holy Communion.

A child’s heart begins to beat between 16 and 21 days after conception. Save the 1 argues that each child must be protected under the heartbeat law, not just those deemed worthy. The organization maintains that it supports the law, but without the discriminatory exceptions. They are simply asking for a judge to remove the exceptions while keeping the core of the law intact. Since there is a severability clause in the heartbeat bill, this is entirely possible.

“We want to set a precedent that we’re no longer going to roll over and play dead whenever there are rape exceptions,” said Kiessling. “We’re not going to cooperate in the systematic targeting of our people group for annihilation.”

While society constantly asserts that women who are pregnant by rape need abortion in order to move on from assault, Christie disagrees. Her son, she says, is not a rapist’s child, but her child; most rape victims do not want to abort their children because they don’t want to experience any more violence. Two studies confirm this, finding that more than 70 percent of rape victims who become pregnant choose life for their children.

According to the Des Moines Register, State Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, voted for the original bill without the exceptions and the final version that included the exceptions. He supports the efforts of Save the 1 to have the exceptions removed.

“It gives signals to other state legislatures, especially other Republican legislatures, that there are groups that are willing to step in when you have this language in there,” he said.

The law was set to go into effect on July 1, however, a judge temporarily blocked it while a lawsuit is underway.

“People ask why now? Why Iowa? Other states have exceptions,” said Kiessling. “[…] I’ve wanted to do this for years. When I heard of rape exceptions added in certain states, we needed local counsel and it was difficult in other states to find local counsel. I spent a lot of time in Iowa. We feel invested there. There’s been so much publicity about this case in Iowa being the most restrictive legislation in the country. It’s an ideal time to do it. I want other legislatures across the country to take notice and I want them to calculate what the ramifications are going to be and that we will file a case. We will defend our lives.”

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