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Abortion laws around the globe (2018)
01:33 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Republican-led legislature in Iowa has passed a bill that, if signed into law, will become the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban: It forbids doctors from performing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In many cases, that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they’re expecting.

Right now, Iowa bars most abortions after 20 weeks, already making it one the most restrictive states. But Senate File 359, or the “heartbeat bill,” ups the ante.

And it’s most certainly going to be challenged in court, opponents say.

In 2013, North Dakota passed a similar law that banned abortions after six weeks. The case made its way to the US Supreme Court, where it was blocked permanently.

“By passing an intentionally unconstitutional bill, Iowa Republicans have declared that they do not care about the foundational values of our state, or Iowa’s future,” Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa said.

“They do not care how much taxpayer money will be spent on a lawsuit.”

Lawmakers know it will lead to a legal fight

Many lawmakers who support the “heartbeat bill” hope it does lead to a legal battle that winds its way to the highest court of the land. Emboldened by the court’s makeup, they think it will help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision by the Supreme Court that legalized the right to an abortion in all 50 states.

“This bill will be the vehicle that will ultimately provide change and provide the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Sen. Rick Bertrand, a Republican, said during the floor debate. “There’s nothing hidden here about the agenda.”

The Iowa legislation has some exemptions, such as in the case of rape or incest or if a woman’s life is at risk. The bill doesn’t call for criminal prosecution of a woman getting an abortion, but doesn’t include language about what happens to doctors who flout the law.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, who hasn’t said whether she will sign it. But her spokeswoman told CNN: “Gov. Reynolds is 100% pro-life and will never stop fighting for the unborn.”

CNN’s Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.