DES MOINES, Iowa —Abortions would be banned in Iowa, including in cases of rape and incest, under a bill approved Monday by a House subcommittee.
The measure defines life as beginning at conception. But opponents said the broad wording of the bill would also prohibit some forms of contraception and could have many other unintended consequences.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kim Pearson, said it was important for the Legislature to go on record as favoring protecting life.
"The real issue is life is sacred," said Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill. "I believe that abortion is murder. What I want to make sure is this culture values life."
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A subcommittee of the House Human Resources Committee approved the plan on a 2-1 vote, sending it to the full committee for more debate. It is one of two bills in the House aimed at imposing new restrictions on abortions.
Opponents said the measure's real goal is to provide a vehicle for challenging a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
"Their intent is to overturn Roe vs. Wade," said Kyle Carlson, a lobbyist Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
Danny Carroll, of the conservative group Family Leader, conceded there would be court challenge should the measure eventually become law.
"There are a number of variables, Supreme Court review, state court review," said Carroll. "The main reason for passing this bill is it's simply the right thing to do."
The Human Resources Committee is also considering a bill that would put new restrictions on late-term abortions, but it hasn't gotten enough votes to move into the full House. Pearson and other conservatives argue that by restricting late-term abortions, lawmakers are essentially sanctioning abortions earlier in the pregnancy.
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said the broad wording of the bill approved Monday would result in many unintended consequences.
Under the bill, she said, a pregnant woman could be charged with endangering the fetus if she smokes or consumes alcohol. She also said some forms of birth control that prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb would likely be banned under the measure.
"I believe contraception would be illegal under this bill," said Wessel-Kroeschell. "There are consequences when we pass legislation."
Before approving the measure, the panel heard testimony from Jennifer Minney, a Cedar Rapids woman who said she was pressured into getting an abortion by a former husband and has suffered ever since.
"Abortion is not over as soon as it's done," said Minney, who said she's battled with alcohol and depression since she got an abortion in 1998.
Republicans seized control of the House by a 60-40 margin in the last election, and GOP members overwhelmingly oppose abortion. But they've seen the issue stall over disagreements about how far they should go in restricting abortion.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said lawmakers still have another month to win committee approval of abortion restrictions, and he's confident they will act.
"My expectation is we'll make a decision and something will move," said Paulsen.