Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad today signed a bill to protect unborn babies from painful, late-term abortions.

The bill would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks on unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain; exceptions would be allowed to save the mother’s life. It will require women to wait 72 hours between informed consent counseling and the abortion. The bill also will increase reporting requirements for abortion practitioners and the state Department of Public Health. A court has stopped the latter provision already, but that does not appear to affect the 20-week ban.

Jenifer Bowen, a spokeswoman for Iowa Right to Life, celebrated the news as a victory for unborn babies.

“After a years-long battle to gain a pro-life Senate, Iowa finally succeeded in passing life-saving legislation that bans painful late-term abortions,” said Jenifer Bowen, president of Life Right Action. “Our state was previously one of the most permissive on abortion, allowing abortion on-demand well beyond five months, more than halfway through pregnancy.”

The United States is one of only seven nations to allow abortion on-demand more than halfway through pregnancy. Polling done on Election Day 2016 found that a large majority of voters nationwide – women in higher numbers than men – support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

“National Democratic leaders are beginning to turn away from their extreme pro-abortion platform. As they debate whether pro-lifers should be allowed into the party, pro-life Republicans are unified in their support for common sense pro-life measures. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is not only compassionate policy, it is smart politics,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Momentum is building to enact a national ban on late-term abortion. We are encouraged by Iowa’s bold move and look forward to the day when all unborn children are protected under the law.

“We congratulate and thank our pro-life allies in Iowa including the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Shannon Lundgren, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, Rep. Dawn Pettengill, and Rep. Kristi Hagar for championing this compassionate legislation.”

Nineteen other states have passed similar laws protecting unborn children after five months, a point by which research shows unborn children feel pain, she said.

Here’s more from The Des Moines Register:

Sen. Mark Costello, R-Imogene, a father of five children who was the bill’s floor manager, told of placing his hand on his wife’s stomach when she was five months pregnant and how could feel the baby kicking.

“At 20 weeks, the baby is fully formed and developed,” Costello said.

Democrats passionately argued against the bill.

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Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said the legislation fails to address situations where women had wanted to have a healthy baby, but something went terribly wrong. She told of two women she knows who became pregnant with fetuses that never developed a brain. One woman terminated the pregnancy, and the other carried the fetus to term, only to have the baby die after one hour of life.

An Iowa Planned Parenthood spokesperson previously called the bill “terrible” and claimed it would “force” women to carry and give birth to an “unwanted” child.

There were at least 5,770 abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.

Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain at 20 weeks, researchers have fully established fetal pain at 20 weeks or earlier. Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.

At 20 weeks, the unborn child has all the parts in place – the pain receptors, spinal cord, nerve tracts, and thalamus – needed for transmitting and feeling pain. The unborn child responds to touch as early as week 6; and by week 18, pain receptors have appeared throughout the child’s body.

Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, a professor of neonatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told a U.S. Senate committee last year that “anesthesiologists, and surgeons use pain medication” for unborn babies at the 20 week stage when performing surgery, “because it’s supported by the literature completely.”

“I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to a horrific procedure such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection,” Malloy added.

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