Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday signed into law the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country, prohibiting the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks.
The new law is almost certain to prompt court challenges. Abortion opponents emboldened by the prospect of President Donald Trump further shaping the ideological direction of the Supreme Court are wagering the Iowa ban or similar measures could provide a test case for overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Reynolds, who is running for reelection and has referred to abortion in the past as murder, signed the law just days after it was approved by Iowa’s GOP-dominated state legislature. Iowa already banned most abortions after 20 weeks. Eighteen states ban abortion at that point, but efforts to set earlier restrictions haven’t survived legal challenges.
“I understand and anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put a hold on the law until it reaches the Supreme Court," Reynolds said in a statement. "This is bigger than just a law. This is about life."
The latest Iowa restrictions come less than two months after Mississippi enacted a 15-week abortion ban and Kentucky prohibited a common procedure performed 11 weeks after fertilization. Both of those laws have been blocked in court.
In Congress, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), has authored legislation to prohibit abortion when a heartbeat is detected. However, the effort has stalled amid a dispute among anti-abortion forces over whether to pursue a more incremental strategy.