By James Q. Lynch
Declaring "all innocent life is precious and sacred," Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday afternoon signed legislation that is described as the nation's most restrictive abortion law.
Outside her office, abortion rights supporters chanted "our bodies, our choice," while the first-term Republican governor, surrounded by lawmakers and families from a Christian academy, signed Senate File 359.
The law bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.
"I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision," Reynolds said. "But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn't a beating heart indicate life?"
Within a half hour, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa announced it will go to court to block implementation of the law before it takes effect July 1.
"The ACLU of Iowa, along with Planned Parenthood, will not let this dangerous, unconstitutional law stand," said ACLU's Mark Stringer. "Instead, we will protect the fundamental right of Iowa women to control their bodies and their lives."
Reynolds said at the bill signing that stopping a beating heart is immoral and to sell fetal body parts, which also is outlawed in the legislation, is "sickening."
"If death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn't a beating heart indicate life?" Reynolds said. "For me, my faith leads me to protect every Iowan, no matter how small."
The bill does not specify criminal or civil penalties for those breaking the law. Earlier versions had called for felony charges against doctors but not women seeking an abortion.
There had been little doubt that Reynolds, who describes herself as "100 percent pro-life," would sign the bill. That didn't stop Planned Parenthood and its allies from rallying Friday morning across the street from the Capitol to promise to continue to fight for reproductive rights.
Suzanna de Baca, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told a few hundred people at the Iowa Fights Back rally that the fight reproductive rights is "all of our fight ... Iowa's fight, and it's on all of us to push back against these attacks on our lives, our bodies, our car ... our rights."
"We were outraged, but we weren't actually surprised because since the elections in 2016 we've gotten used to bad news, used to being attacked by shocking, unfathomable, unconscionable attacks," she continued.
Like many of the speakers, de Baca had a message for Reynolds and the Republicans who passed the law: "We will see you in court."
Reynolds anticipated the legal challenge that the bill's supporters hope will lead to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal.
"However, this is bigger than just a law," she said. "This is about life. I am not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in."
The ACLU's Stringer called that "a bad way to make legislation ... to treat the women of our state. This is bad for Iowa."
Erin Davison-Rippey of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland promised the organization would do "whatever it takes to make sure that we protect the rights that our mothers, our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers have already won."
Iowa's four Catholic bishops also are preparing for a court challenge.
In a joint statement Friday morning, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque and Bishops Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City and Richard Pates of Des Moines called on the judiciary to recognize life.
They said they were pleased the Legislature took action to "stop any trafficking in fetal body parts" and said they support "the life-affirming intent of the provision to stop abortions after a heartbeat can be detected."
"As Pope Francis has said, 'Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother's womb.' We call upon the judiciary to once again recognize that all life should be protected from the moment of conception to natural death," the bishops said.
Reaction from around the state and across the country was predictable.
l Jennifer Price, co-director of the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, the first abortion provider in Iowa, said this is not the first time Iowa has limited access to abortion, but this new law "is just too much, too extreme, too cruel, too heartless."
l Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, an annual event in Washington to mark the Roe vs. Wade decision, applauded Reynolds for "recognizing that every life is a gift and that personhood has inherent dignity from the moment of conception."
l Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chairwoman Andrea Phllips said the new law "will put lives in danger. It also will potentially cost Iowa taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees at a time when our state budget is already in crisis, thanks to Gov. Reynolds' mismanagement. This new unconstitutional law shows that Reynolds cares more about the extreme political special interests that fund her campaign than about the rights of women in our state."
l Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann called Reynolds "a leader who will stand up for what she believes in, regardless of the circumstances or the political consequences. I stand behind our governor and her support of a bill that will uphold our pro-life values and outlaw this awful practice of selling fetal body parts."
(c)2018 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)