Nov 15, 2023 - News

Iowa's board to vote on "fetal heartbeat" rules

Illustration of a shadow about to sign off on the health symbol.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Iowa's "fetal heartbeat" rules go before the state's board of medicine Friday for discussion and a vote.

Catch up fast: The law bans nearly all abortion procedures after a heartbeat is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy.

  • Nearly identical legislation that was passed by lawmakers in 2018 was blocked by Iowa courts.

Why it matters: While the law remains blocked, the rules could determine how the legislation works should or when it takes effect.

State of play: The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, leaving many abortion rights issues for states to decide.

  • Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds called a special legislative session in July to approve nearly identical legislation, then filed a brief last week asking the Iowa Supreme Court to let the law go into effect.

Details: The rules would require doctors to ask a series of questions about potential rape or incest allegations, which are exceptions to the heartbeat law.

  • The physician would be required to make a good-faith assessment that the pregnant person is being truthful and could require them to sign a form attesting to the statement's accuracy.

Zoom in: Abortion doctors would also be required to complete certification that a fetus has an abnormality that is incompatible with life for exceptions based on physical conditions.

  • Test results and a description of why the abnormality is incompatible with life would be required and included in the patient's medical records.

Of note: The rules don't detail possible discipline for Iowa doctors who fail to follow the law.

  • Some providers that have declined to give abortions in states where the procedure is now banned have been accused of violating federal law that protects patients in emergency situations.

What next: The Iowa Board of Medicine's Friday meeting starts at 10am, 6200 Park Ave., in DSM. It includes a virtual option.


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