Adam Putnam said he would sign a ‘heartbeat bill’ as governor. What is it?

Recently approved in Iowa, it's considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Adam Putnam, Republican gubernatorial candidate makes a campaign stop at Kimmins Contracting in Tampa on April 6. Putnam said he won't raise taxes. (MONICA HERNDON   |   Times)
Adam Putnam, Republican gubernatorial candidate makes a campaign stop at Kimmins Contracting in Tampa on April 6. Putnam said he won't raise taxes. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published May 7, 2018|Updated May 7, 2018

For a moment, it seemed like Adam Putnam might exit Saturday's Republican governor candidate forum, heavily focused on social issues, without offering a concrete position on abortion.

"There are some very powerful arguments to be me made that just as faith and science illuminate each other, as Justice (Sandra Day) O'Connor said, science is on a collision course with current case law," Putnam said at the end of a long-winded answer on the topic. "That life is real and should be protected and should be defended and should be honored at every turn and I will do that as governor."

But moderator and Republican pollster Frank Luntz pushed for specifics and Putnam offered them.

"I'm sorry, let me be more clear: If the heartbeat bill gets to my desk, I'll sign it," the Republican Agriculture Commissioner said.

Putnam's main rival in the GOP race, Rep. Ron DeSantis, would sign the legislation as well, campaign spokesman Dave Vasquez told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday.

Guns, bathroom bills and abortion: Putnam, DeSantis take on social issues in first GOP guv forum

Like personhood legislation and government funding of Planned Parenthood programs, the so-called "heartbeat bill" may become the latest anti-abortion litmus test for Republican primary candidates after Iowa's governor signed the legislation into law Friday.

The "heartbeat bill" has been described as one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country and directly challenges the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. But what is it?

The law, which goes into effect July 1 unless a court intervenes, requires that physicians perform an abdominal ultrasound before an abortion to detect a fetal heartbeat.

As the law says: "If a fetal heartbeat was detected, an abortion is prohibited."

The legislation allows doctors to make exceptions in instances when a rape is reported or when the woman's life is in physical (but not psychological or emotional) danger, but not for her age.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an ultrasound can detect a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. In some cases, that's before a woman may realize she's pregnant, the organization wrote in objecting to a similar bill at the federal level.

"I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. "But if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn't a beating heart indicate life? For me, it is immoral to stop an innocent beating heart."

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have already vowed to sue, and it is possible courts will prevent implementation until the legal question is settled. That may take a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court  on whether the law violates a woman's constitutional right to an abortion before viability.

Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of gestation, deemed the toughest anti-abortion law in the country when it passed two months ago, is facing legal challenges, too.

DeSantis, was not asked about the Iowa law. In 2017, 169 Republican Congressmen, including 11 from Florida, co-sponsored a bill banning abortion at the detection of a heartbeat. DeSantis was not listed as a co-sponsor.

In backing the heartbeat bill, Putnam earned applause from attendees of the forum, hosted by the Florida Family Planning Council, a group that "promotes the Christian worldview" including advocating against abortion.

Meanwhile, Democrats immediately seized on the comment, signaling how they believe Putnam's support of the bill will play with general election voters.

"Adam Putnam showed us who he was tonight: an anti-choice extremist hell-bent with taking away women's health freedom," Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said in a press release right after the debate.

This post was updated to include new information about DeSantis' view on this issue.