On Tuesday, while crowds of sign-bearing, pro-life Minnesotans gathered outside the state Capitol, Minnesota Rep. Tim Miller, a Republican from Prinsburg, introduced a bill that would make abortion illegal after just six weeks.
Sarah Stoesz, the director of Planned Parenthood’s political arm in Minnesota, immediately pointed out what she sees as a problem with the ban’s timing. Most women, she said, don’t even know they’re pregnant six weeks in.
A month-and-a-half is not a lot of time to miss a period, take a pregnancy test, and muscle into a doctor’s office in order to confirm said pregnancy test. Stoesz called the ban “fundamentally out of touch with the people of our state” in a statement released the same day Miller proposed it.
But Miller’s ban is actually somewhat timely, and not just because he proposed it on Tuesday, which was the 46th anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. That same day, an Iowa state judge found a very similar law unconstitutional.
The story of that law begins in May, when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed off on legislation banning any abortions involving a fetus with a heartbeat -- again, about six weeks into a pregnancy -- except in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergency. It was poised to become the most restrictive ban on abortion in the United States.
But it wasn’t too much longer -- less than a month, in fact -- before abortion providers at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City challenged the fetal heartbeat law in court. As a result, a Polk County district judge put the ban on hold with a temporary injunction until the courts could determine its constitutionality. If that decision had gone the other way, the ban would have taken effect in July.
Which brings us to Tuesday, when Judge Michael Huppert officially struck it down. A “woman’s right to decide” whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is “fundamental” under the Iowa Constitution, he explained in his nine-page ruling. Banning abortion before she knows she may need one doesn’t count as upholding that right.
Reynolds told the Des Moines Register that she was “incredibly disappointed” in the ruling. Proponents of the ban are expected to appeal.
Miller says he's aware of what happened in Iowa, but he's been working on some form of a "heartbeat bill" for years, and believes "a beating heart shows there's a human being" at stake when it comes to terminating a pregnancy. He fully expects the courts to challenge it.
The Iowa decision doesn’t exactly bode well for Miller’s ban, but Minnesota’s Planned Parenthood branch is staying vigilant, by trying to enact some legislation of its own: the Protect Access to Contraception Act. The bill, which is supposed to be introduced later this session, would guarantee access to affordable birth control without needing to go through the whims of employers or insurance.
If Republicans really “want to decrease the need for abortion,” Stoesz said, they should get on board and make sure fewer women end up needing them.