Between LiveAction’s crusade against Planned Parenthood and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, it’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks for abortion rights. And now a group of Ohio politicians are supporting a bill that would ban abortions at heartbeat. Because, as Representative Mike Henne puts it, “Heartbeat? Life? It just makes sense.”
A heartbeat can be detected anywhere from 18 days to six weeks, so the so-called “heartbeat bill” would outlaw abortions at a much earlier point than accepted law – most notably Roe v. Wade – requires. Not surprisingly, this bill is considered a direct attack on Roe, and its sponsor has said that he hopes the bill will help lead to a Supreme Court decision restricting abortions. As of now, the “heartbeat bill” has a strong chance of passing in the Ohio legislature; and, according to one of its supporters, similar legislation is being considered in Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia and discussed in Kansas and Arizona.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, 88% of all abortions were performed in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. That’s twelve weeks – almost twice as long as the Ohio bill would allow. For many women, those extra weeks mean more time to raise the money to pay for an abortion, to arrange childcare and/or time off work, and, if they live in a state with a mandatory waiting period, to schedule two different appointments with the clinic. That extra time is essential not just for all those reasons, but also because a lot of women don’t realize they’re pregnant until well into the first trimester. But apparently Ohio legislators believe that every woman automatically knows the minute she becomes pregnant, and has the cash on hand for an abortion and a flexible schedule at her disposal.
The bill also ignores the reality of when an abortion can be performed. A woman can have a medical abortion within seven or eight weeks after her last missed period (some clinics will offer medical abortions up to nine weeks). For a surgical abortion, however, a pregnancy of less than six weeks could increase the chance of a failed abortion. So any woman that would prefer to have an abortion in-clinic loses that choice, too. But as this bill makes painfully clear, the Ohio legislators care more about the rights of a six-week fetus than the rights of a woman.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.