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Iowa House passes 18-week abortion ban

The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday voted 54 - 37 [Des Moines Reporter] in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions [JURIST news archive] after 18 weeks of pregnancy, making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The Iowa House passed a late-term abortion ban in April [JURIST report], but the Senate decided not to vote on the bill by a slim margin of 26 - 23 [Senate Journal text, PDF]. The Senate later introduced SF-534 [text, PDF], forcing late-term abortion providers' clinics to be "located in close proximity to a hospital licensed [...] that is a level II regional neonatology center." There are only five hospitals with neonatal wards in Iowa [Des Moines Register report], in the state's four major cities. The House's bill amends SF-534 significantly, banning abortions after the beginning of the gestation period, which occurs at a woman's last period before her pregnancy, thus potentially banning abortions as early as 18 weeks. There is no exception in the bill for the health of the mother, although there is for her life.

Any person who intentionally terminates a human pregnancy, with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person, after a gestation period of twenty completed weeks where death of the fetus results commits feticide. Feticide is a class C felony. Any person who attempts to intentionally terminate a human pregnancy, with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person, after a gestation period of twenty completed weeks where death of the fetus does not result commits attempted feticide. Attempted feticide is a class D felony.
These felony charges could attach 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It is unknown when the Senate will vote on the bill, but it is unlikely they will ratify it.

The Obama administration took a stand earlier this month against a controversial Indiana law that prevents health care providers with abortion services from receiving Medicaid funds, saying the law violates federal law [JURIST report]. Several other states have acted recently to tighten restrictions on abortions. Last month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a South Dakota law requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. Earlier that week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton [official website] vetoed a pair of bills [JURIST report] that restricted state funding for abortions and banned them altogether after 20 weeks. Also in May, Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed into law a bill that requires women seeking an abortion to first get a sonogram [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].

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