The bill, passed in the Iowa House of Representatives May 1 and the Iowa Senate May 2, now awaits approval from Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, who has not commented on whether she will sign the legislation into law.
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 bill does make some exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest.
The bill 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 bill and we want to do everything we can to support that," Bishop Nickless said.
Bishop Nickless told CNA that the state's bishops recognize that some provisions of the bill 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."