The Iowa heartbeat bill

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 11th of May, 2018.

We’re glad you’re along for today’s episode of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. On May 4th, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law the nation’s greatest protection for the unborn. It’s called the Iowa Heartbeat Protection Act. Dozens of pro-life organizations in Iowa joined together to advance the rights of the preborn person. That’s what made this groundbreaking legislation possible.

REICHARD: One of those pro-life organizations is The Family Leader. Staffer Drew Zahn was heavily involved in the process and he’s on the line now. Drew, what does this law actually say?

DREW ZAHN, GUEST: Yes, the law requires a doctor to perform an ultrasound before conducting an abortion. And if the baby’s heartbeat can be detected on the ultrasound, then the doctor cannot perform an abortion, except under some exceptions. And those exceptions include imminent danger to the mother’s life and then some exception clauses were put into the bill kinda last minute that creates an exception for in the cases of rape or incest or a fetal abnormality inconsistent with life. And those exceptions are in place up until 20 weeks where abortion is already banned in Iowa after 20 weeks in all cases except to save the life of the mother.

Tell us a bit about how this law came about. Obviously, there’s opposition. Tell us a little bit about the background of it.

ZAHN: Well, I’m glad you asked because Rome was not built in a day, and this bill took a long time in coming. Obviously pro-life groups have been active in Iowa for more than 40 years since Roe v. Wade with very, very little progress. The tide really began to turn about three years ago. One of the things The Family Leader was active in doing was bringing pastors up to the capital. Not to testify, not to lobby, but to pray with, to begin building relationships, and to restore the voice of the church in the halls of government again. That was a significant step because it also began to change the spiritual atmosphere up at the capital. 

Something else happened very important about, a little more than two years ago. Iowa is home to dozens of pro-life organizations that sometimes took different strategies, different approaches, even sometimes fought with one another. But about two years ago, these pro-life organizations, including The Family Leader and Iowa Right to Life and many others got together to form the Coalition of Pro-Life Leaders and began to work together towards our common goal. That was absolutely huge in enabling us to move forward in a spirit of unity where politics and politicians couldn’t divide the pro-life community anymore and our voice, therefore, became amplified. That was a big part of getting this bill passed.  

Now, is that something that’s very different from what other states might have been doing or what Iowa was doing before?

ZAHN: Well, it is different, yes, because we normally think of the capital as a place where just politics happens or just government happens. And we have to realize is the Scripture refers to our leaders in government as ministers of God. And so we began to bring ministers of the church to these ministers of government and try to restore that sort of prophet Nathan to King David voice, and that opened up the opportunities to begin to speak, to begin to counsel, and begin to pray. We really do believe that prayer was a critical component of getting this heartbeat bill passed.

And are you aware of any current legal opposition going on at this moment?

ZAHN: Well, at this moment Iowa’s law has been signed by the governor now, but it doesn’t actually take effect until July 1st. So odds are legal challenges will wait until they have standing to actually file their lawsuits. So we’re in a little bit of a lull right now, but we do anticipate there will be legal challenges.

Drew Zahn is director of communications at the The Family Leader in Urbandale, IA. Thank for talking with us.

ZAHN: Good to talk to you.

(Associated Press/Charlie Neibergall) Gov. Kim Reynolds walks through the Iowa House chambers in January.

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