Iowa’s Republican-led legislature has passed a bill banning most abortions after six weeks.

Both the state’s Senate and House passed the legislation on Tuesday night after Republican Governor Kim Reynolds called for a rare special session to hold a vote on the restrictions.

The bill is expected to face legal challenges.

In a statement after it passed, Gov Reynolds said the Iowa legislature had voted to “protect life”.

“Justice for the unborn should not be delayed,” she said.

The bill blocks most abortions after early signs of cardiac activity can be detected in a foetus or embryo – around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

It includes some exceptions for cases of rape, incest and foetal abnormalities, as well as when the mother’s life is in danger.

It would go into effect as soon as Gov Reynolds signs it on Friday unless it is blocked by a court.

Abortions are currently allowed through to 20 weeks of pregnancy in Iowa.

Iowa is set to join a growing group of Midwestern states that have enacted abortion restrictions since the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, including neighbouring states of Missouri and South Dakota.

Last summer, that US Supreme Court ruling ended the constitutional right to an abortion, paving the way for individual states to ban the procedure or bring in new restrictions.

The Tuesday vote sparked protests at the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines. Several demonstrators were escorted out of the building by state troopers after they screamed profanities at Republican lawmakers, according to local outlet Des Moines Register.

The legislation is nearly identical to a six-week abortion ban that the Iowa legislature passed in 2018, which was blocked by the state’s supreme court in June.

The vote on the abortion bill sparked a heated debate on Tuesday, with Democrats lambasting the bill and Republican lawmakers defending it.

Ruth Richardson, president of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said this week the organisation will challenge the new law in court.

Source: BBC