DES MOINES - The Iowa House on Thursday approved a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The Republican-controlled House voted 60-39 Thursday evening to approve the measure. The Senate still must consider the measure.
Minority Democrats were strongly opposed to the bill. Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, an Ames Democrat, called the bill extreme and said it endangers women by not allowing for medical exceptions.
"I feel strongly that a family who is in this situation should not have their decisions made by politicians," Wessel-Kroeschell said. "It should be the family's decision."
Rep. Mary Mascher, an Iowa City Democrat, agreed. She added that lawmakers are not at the Capitol to practice medicine.
"These decisions need to be made between a woman, her family, her faith and her physicians," Mascher said.
And Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic, a Waterloo Democrat, questioned why the body is debating an issue that has affected so few families compared to other maternity issues. Kajtazovic said just six abortions were performed in the state last year after 20 weeks of pregnancy, compared 700 Iowa families that have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth in the past year.
"What's sad is that we have members in this body politicizing what is such a personal and difficult decision that a woman is faced with sometimes in her pregnancy," Kajtazovic said.
Republicans said the bill is about saving the lives of unborn children, not politics. Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, a Council Bluffs Republican, said it's in the Legislature's interest to protect life.
"If an unborn child feels pain, protecting it is an issue of human compassion," Hanusa said.
Rep. Dawn Pettengill, a Mount Auburn Republicans, agreed that the measure is about saving babies and the gifts they have to offer.
"We don't know about all the babies that have been killed, and yes, killed," Pettengill said. "Maybe they might have had the cure for cancer. We don't know what their possibilities are."
After lawmakers in Nebraska enacted similar restrictions, a doctor in the Omaha area announced plans to offer late-term abortions at a clinic just across the border in Council Bluffs, Iowa. That spurred the effort to ban the practice in Iowa, too.
Abortion opponents also pushed for new restrictions this session in part because the state now has a Republican governor who is likely to sign them. But majority Democrats in the Senate were largely unreceptive to any restrictions on the practice, and adjourned for the week before the House began debating the bill.
Because the abortion bill came out of the Government Oversight Committee, it is not subject to an April 1 legislative deadline that would have prevented it from moving forward.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.