Iowa’s “Heartbeat” Bill unsafe for women

Graphic by Jessica Wade
Opinion Editor Jessica Wade shares her thoughts on Iowa’s “Heartbeat” Bill.
Jessica Wade

Iowa lawmakers approved a bill Feb. 28 that would ban most abortions after the first fetal heartbeat, meaning that abortion would be illegal as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.

The Republican-majority chamber voted 30-20 on Wednesday along party lines in support of the bill, which would only allow women to legally terminate a pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat if doing so was necessary to save the woman’s life.

Under this bill, Iowa women and girls could be raped, victims of incest, suicidal, addicted to drugs or mentally incapable to care for themselves, and they would still be legally forced to give birth.

A statement from the Iowa Catholic Conference said that the state’s bishops “support the life-affirming intent of ‘heartbeat’ abortion legislation.”

“We appreciate legislators for their efforts to advance the protection of unborn children and we remain committed to helping with efforts aimed at resolving questions regarding the bill’s constitutionality,” the statement continued.

After reaching out to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Public Affairs Director Erin Davison-Rippey responded with this statement:

“Today’s vote to ban abortion is unpopular, unconstitutional, and unconscionable. Iowans should be outraged that GOP senators once again put their personal politics above women’s health and common sense. If these lawmakers really wanted to decrease the need for abortion, they would work with Planned Parenthood to increase access to birth control. Instead, they’ve decimated access to family planning and are working to push Iowa back to a pre-Roe era where abortion was unsafe and often deadly. Plain and simple, Iowa women do not want to be dragged back to 1972, and taxpayers do not want to pay the cost of a lengthy, divisive legal battle to challenge Roe – especially when 7-in-10 Americans agree that abortion should remain safe and legal. We call on reasonable members of the House to do the right thing and stop this attack on women’s health and rights.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is right. This bill would be a 46-year step back for women’s health and reproductive rights. A rather dangerous step back because passing legislation to limit or end abortion doesn’t actually end abortion.

Before the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, numerous women died from illegal abortion care. The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that focuses on reproductive health, found that in the 1930s, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women, or 18 percent of maternal deaths recorded in that year. In 1965, illegal abortions accounted for 17 percent of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year, and those are just the reported cases.

The Guttmacher Institute also states that in the 1950s and 60s, up to 1.2 million women per year terminated their pregnancies despite the health risks. Today, death due to abortion complications is incredibly rare.

Providing comprehensive sex education and increasing the availability of contraceptives has been proven to lower the rate of abortions performed in the United States, protect women’s rights over their own bodies and decrease the amount of illegal (and dangerous) abortions.

A study published by the Public Library of Science found that states that choose to advocate for abstinence-only programs have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Research also shows that while students who go through abstinence-only programs typically have fewer sexual partners and may be sexually active for less time, they still have the same rates of STDs as their peers.

The United Nation estimates that worldwide, contraception already prevents 112 million abortions a year.

Instead of taking a step backward on women’s reproductive rights, lawmakers should be encouraging comprehensive sex education and access to contraceptives.