SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City said that a bill banning abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat “affirms the life-giving intent” of the state’s pro-life efforts.
Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, the measure was attached to state legislation banning the sale and transfer of fetal remains.
Bishop Nickless told CNA he supports the legislation’s aims.
“We are grateful that, right now, it looks like it would stop some trafficking of fetal body parts following an abortion,” he said. “It also affirms the life-giving intent of our stance in pro-life activities.”
The bill, passed in the Iowa House of Representatives May 1 and the Iowa Senate May 2, and was signed into law by Republican governor, Kim Reynolds on May 4.
The law would require any women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a milestone usually detected in the sixth week of pregnancy. The law does make some exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest.
The law would also ban all persons from knowingly acquiring, providing, transferring, or using fetal remains in Iowa. This would not apply to medical diagnostic samples, or forensic investigations, or to fetal body parts donated for medical research after a miscarriage or stillbirth.
“We support the life-giving intent of the provisions in the law and we want to do everything we can to support that,” Bishop Nickless said.
Bishop Nickless, 70, told CNA that the state’s bishops recognize that some provisions of the law might not withstand judicial scrutiny. He added that Catholics might disagree about the strategy of supporting legislation that could be overturned by courts.
At the same time, the bishop encouraged creative pro-life advocacy, saying that Iowa’s bishops had encouraged Catholics to discern those questions carefully. He said the message of the state’s bishops had been: “If you’re a Catholic and your conscience tells you to support this, please do.”
“The Catholic Church has always been pro-life and we’ll continue to be,” he added.
Bishop Nickless reaffirmed that the Catholic Church supports the health and rights of all women, including those in the womb. “If we are talking about women we need to make sure we are talking about unborn females as well, and protecting them for sure,” he said.
“Catholics respect all human life,” he added, “from natural conception to natural death, and we are trying to respect the females among us as well.”