Iowa House bans abortion after 20th week of pregnancy

DES MOINES Fri Apr 1, 2011 6:32pm EDT

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DES MOINES (Reuters) - The Iowa Senate will consider a bill that bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, following approval of the measure by the state House Thursday night, lawmakers said Friday.

State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, a Republican, said the bill is a priority because a Nebraska doctor has said he plans to open a clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa where he would perform so-called "late term" abortions.

"There is a substantial and growing body of medical and scientific evidence that unborn babies at 20 weeks can feel intense pain when they are aborted," Hanusa said during debate Thursday. "At 20 weeks, unborn children have pain receptors throughout their body and nerves link these to the brain."

Iowa is one of 15 states considering a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, citing fetal pain research. The bills are modeled after a Nebraska law passed last year. A Kansas 20-week ban has already passed the state's legislature, and Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign it.

The Iowa House bill passed on a 60 to 39 vote.

Iowa's Senate has a Democratic majority of 26-24, but Hanusa said Friday she knew of some Democrats in the Senate who would support it. Four Democrats in the House joined all but three Republicans to support the bill. The Republicans who refused to support it wanted a ban on all abortions.

State Rep. Sharon Steckman, a Democrat who opposed the bill, noted that abortions after 20 weeks are rare and typically done in cases where something was "terribly wrong" with the fetus or the women was in danger. She said the bill only allows an exception if the woman is "pretty much at death door."

"I don't see how people think this is something taken lightly," said Steckman. "I don't think the bill is very well thought out for the woman's safety and health."

"I think the doctor and the woman know what's best in this situation and not a bunch of politicians," said Steckman.

(Reporting by Kay Henderson; Writing and additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune)

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