Iowa bill on abortion battles for beating hearts

Jenna Stephens—Staff Writer

The unborn baby’s body is less than half an inch in length at six weeks after conception. Her eyes, nose and chin are developing. Arms and legs are beginning to bud, still a few months away from kicking around inside Mom’s belly. A tiny heart forms and starts pumping blood. It clocks in at 150 beats per minute, about twice as fast as yours. Among all the rapid developments in a fetus, that heartbeat is the force throwing abortion supporters and opponents into a war of law and ethics.

Senate File 359, also known as the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, was considered in the Iowa House on Tuesday, Mar. 20. This bill would bring sharp changes to current abortion policies. If passed, it would outlaw nearly all abortions after the doctor can detect the heartbeat of a fetus. Fetal heartbeats can often be detected about six weeks into the gestational period. Most women do not even realize they are pregnant at this point.

“It’s protecting the unborn children as people made in the image of God, so I think I would support it,” Dordt freshman Hailey Pullman said.

“Something has to change,” said Tom DeLay, former U.S. House Majority Leader, in a speech during the hearing. “I understand that you have to have compassion for those women, but they never talk about the baby. What about the baby?”

It is unsure when the proposed bill will come before the full House, but legislators say it will happen. If passed, the bill would have the potential of reaching the Supreme Court and influencing the policies of Roe vs. Wade. But that could only happen if it withstands the test of fiery debates and lengthy court battles.

The Roe vs. Wade case goes back to 1973, when the Supreme Court affirmed, with a 7-2 vote, that women bear the right to have an abortion under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment states: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In Roe vs. Wade, the Court divided a pregnancy period into three trimesters. The woman had full discretion to terminate the pregnancy during the first trimester. The second trimester gave the state the right to regulate abortions, but not outlaw them, based on the interests of the woman’s health. After two trimesters, the fetus became viable, or developed enough to survive outside the uterus. During the third trimester, the state could regulate or outlaw abortions in the interest of the baby, except when an abortion was necessary to maintain the health or life of the mother.

Many states have passed abortion restrictions since the 1973 vote, but numbers show that abortion opponents have not won the fight. Planned Parenthood affiliated health centers reported 321,384 abortion procedures between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016. Based on numbers from the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 60 million abortions have occurred since 1973.

“It is ironic that I am here when we should be celebrating women’s achievements and how far we’ve come as a state,” Suzanna de Baca said during the hearing. She is the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “Instead, we are once again being forced to plead for women’s basic reproductive rights.”

The hearing took place in the middle of women’s history month and raised questions about women’s rights, as well as the rights of an unborn baby. What defines a “person” in the Fourteenth Amendment and how should they be protected by law?

“Even though some people may view abortion as a woman’s right, they’re not considering the right of life that God has given to the unborn baby,” Pullman said. “We have to use our rights in a way that is honoring to God, and I don’t feel like abortion is a way to do that.”


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