A bill banning abortions after 20 weeks was passed in the Iowa House on Wednesday following its passage in the Senate. The bill was introduced by Representative Shannon Lundgren (R, Peosta) and voted along party lines, unlike the bipartisan support that it received in the Senate.
Attempts were made by Republicans to add an amendment to the bill that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected and to define life as beginning at conception. These amendments failed.
“When we detect a heartbeat, we know there is a life there. When it stops, we know that life has ended. A baby’s heartbeat can be detected by six weeks, and 60-70% of abortions are performed before 20 weeks,” said Representative Sandy Salmon (R, Janesville).
Representative Holt (R, Denison) expressed his support for this amendment by saying, “From the beginning of conception, a child has a unique DNA code that is different from its parents. Each one of us in this chamber was once at the beginning our lives. Each one of us in this chamber had a heart that was just starting to beat. Each of us in this chamber was once 8 weeks old and had organs that were just starting to function. Each of us in this chamber had fingerprints that were just beginning to form. Each of us in this chamber smiled for the first time, perhaps in our mother’s womb. Each of us in this chamber was given the opportunity for life. Human life must be protected at conception as it was for us. The basic right to life should belong to every human being as it does to us. Just as our unborn lives mattered, so do other unborn lives matter. Let us protect this right for others as it was protected for us.” He also shared the story of losing his son prematurely and how it strengthened his pro-life conviction.
“It was at about 20 weeks that my son, Wayne Roland’s, heartbeat disappeared. After the doctors concluded that the heartbeat was gone, labor was induced and my son was born, fully formed. The umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around his neck, and that is why he passed away. I held Wayne in the palm of my hand all night long while wept, and I can tell you that Wayne Roland Holt was a human being. I have always been pro-life, but that strengthened my belief as I held my son.”
Amendments were also introduced to provide the opportunity for a woman to view an ultrasound of the fetus and before continuing with an abortion and to require a 72 hour waiting period before receiving an abortion. These amendments were successfully passed. Representative Greg Heartsill (R, Dallas-Melcher) said that “Seeing is believing. That baby is not an appendage of her mother. She’s a baby”. He shared the power of the impact that seeing his wife’s ultrasound of his daughter had on him.
“I saw her, and it looked like she was waving. As though she was letting us know that she was going to be alright.”
House Democrats tried to counter the bill with amendments that included requirements for fathers to begin paying child support at 20 weeks (introduced by Representative Liz Bennett (D, Cedar Rapids)) and fines for sperm released during masturbation (Representative Bruce Hunter, D, Des Moines). Representative Hunter used the Every Sperm Is Sacred lyrics from Monty Python to back up his argument. These amendments were withdrawn and not voted on.
In closing, Representative Lundgren said “We are talking about limiting abortions after five months of pregnancy. Babies who can survive outside of the womb; babies who feel pain; babies who are human beings. We heard earlier that unborn babies are a blob; it is not a blob. It is a baby. Being able to afford a baby and drug addiction were mentioned; but are those lives not worth saving? We talked about equality for women, but what about equality for unborn women? We treat newborn babies who are born with illnesses or disabilities. We do not kill them. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; Life. That is what we are talking about. I hope that this will be the first of many pieces of legislation to protect the unborn.”
The bill passed by a vote of 55-41, with four absent. The bill will be sent back to the Senate to be voted on as amended.
Susie Washta of Des Moines is a follower of Iowa politics.