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Iowa Capitol crowded as lawmakers consider six week abortion ban

This story was originally published by RadioIowa.

A few dozen Iowans have shared their views on a six week abortion ban at public hearings at the Iowa Capitol. The Iowa House and Senate convened early this morning for a one-day special legislative session to consider a bill to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Pulse Life Advocates, urged legislators to act. “It is beyond time to once and for all have this heartbeat law passed for the second time, signed into law for the second time, but now be able to be enforced,” DeWitte said at the public hearing.

Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, is an OB/GYN who was medical director at Planned Parenthood North Central States. She previously practiced at hospitals in Davenport, Mason City and Des Moines. “Respect the people seeking abortion as individuals,” Turner said at the hearing “…You have no license or right to make medical decisions about anyone’s health except your own.”

Samantha Fett, chair of the Warren County chapter of Moms for Liberty, thanked the governor and GOP legislators in advance for acting on the bill, but she ultimately wants to see all abortions outlawed. “There’s no more important calling on this earth than to have children,” Fett said during the hearing. “It’s the fundamental part of our society that is true and beautiful.”

Rev. Brigit Stevens, executive minister for the Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota Conferences of the United Church of Christ, said abortion will not go away, it will go underground if the bill becomes law. “The interpretation imposed by this legislation represents a narrow Christian view that is not appropriate criteria for public policy,” she said.

Terry Aman (AY-mun), pastor of the Church of the Way in Des Moines, urged a yes vote on the bill. “Everyone in this room is going to stand before a holy God and give an account,” Aman said, “and woe to the one who says, ‘I arbitrarily chose death.'”

Hundreds of opponents of the bill gathered for a midday rally in the Capitol rotunda. Waverly Zhou, a high school student activist with Iowa WTF, urged the crowd to defeat GOP legislators running for reelection in 2024.  “We know we can’t change their minds, but we can do what voters and citizens of this country do best and that is vote them out,” she said, prompting the crowd to chant: “vote them out.”

Rev. Debbie Griffin of a downtown Des Moines Disciples of Christ church told the crowd pregnancy is complicated. “My faith compels me to protect the freedom of choice of my neighbors,” she said.

As the rally was underway, a group of people who backed the bill gathered in a small Capitol meeting room to pray for passage of the legislation. The House and Senate are expected to begin debating the bill around 4 p.m. It will be around 10 p.m. when the House takes a final vote and the Senate will vote around on the bill after 11 p.m.