Examining Iowa’s Senate File 359 by Leah Soweid

What is Senate File 359?

Also termed the “Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” Senate File 359 is an anti-choice bill that was signed into Iowa state law on May 4, 2018 by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds. It currently mandates the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States; while abortions in Iowa were previously permitted up to 20 weeks gestation, this bill criminalizes any individual who receives or provides abortions after 6 weeks gestation, or around the same time that cardiac activity can be detected in the womb. Exceptions apply for survivors of rape and/or incest, but only if they report the assault to the police or a healthcare facility within 45 to 145 days (respectively) of its occurrence.

How Does This Impact Women?

The general consensus is that 6 weeks is too early a timeframe for pregnant women to realize that they are pregnant and make an informed decision on whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term. Furthermore, requiring disclosure of sexual assault as a pre-requisite to accessing healthcare blatantly dismisses the difficulties of disclosing said information to begin with. Finally, threat of prosecution will prevent licensed abortion providers from being able to properly care for their patients after 6 weeks.

Notably, this bill is unanimously supported by Iowa politicians who are unsupportive towards providing comprehensive sexual education and family planning services to Iowans. Rather than invest in evidence-based measures that do, in fact, lead to a decrease in abortion rates, these politicians are supporting the criminalization of women in desperate circumstances. Ironically, the bill claims to care for “the most vulnerable Iowans,” without taking into consideration women in abusive relationships, low-income women who may not be able to save enough money to afford an abortion in six weeks’ time, women with mental and physical health issues who may be unable to care for a child, those who were sexually assaulted but did not come forward to report it, and a host of other women with many legitimate personal, social, and systematic factors that have influenced their valid decisions to undergo the procedure.

Indeed, criminalizing legal abortions does not prevent abortions from occurring; it only stops safe abortions from occurring. Many women who pass this ludicrous six-week “deadline” may be forced to resort to unsafe measures to terminate these pregnancies, ironic in that this bill claims to be “pro-life” but does not stop to consider life outside the womb.

Senate File 359 was meant to come into effect starting July 1, but is currently at a standstill since a judge granted a temporary injunction against it after Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic filed a lawsuit claiming it as unconstitutional. This injunction will allow individuals in Iowa to continue accessing abortions within the previous 20-week gestation timeframe.

Monsoon’s Stance

Monsoon is a pro-choice, intersectional feminist organization that acknowledges and supports every individual’s right to their own bodies. Like Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic, we deem Senate File 359 as unconstitutional and a threat to healthcare. Given that we serve survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking, many of whom may experience or are at risk of experiencing unplanned pregnancies, Senate File 359 bill directly puts our clients at risk. Furthermore, it places the safety and health of all female bodies in the hands of politicians who do not have their best interests in mind and would rather push their own harmful agendas, which are deeply rooted in racism, sexism, and classism, among others.









Comic credit:

Comic 1: The banned Doonesbury Abortion Cartoon: Part 1. (Image: Universal Uclick)
Comic 2: Something I doodled a few months back!


For more information on reproductive health (or lack thereof) in the US and around the world:

For more information on the Fetal Heartbeat Bill: