Don’t drop your guard, ladies. 2012, with all it’s cringe-worthy moments in women’s health and policy, might be behind us, but all the bad press in the world apparently hasn’t done much to dampen the resolve and moral superiority of anti-choice groups and the politicians they’ve bought. Today, the battle shifts to Arkansas.
The state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee just approved a bill that restricts abortions in any case where a fetal heartbeat could be detected. For those not up on their gestational timeline, a heartbeat can be present as early as six weeks. That’s sooner than a great number of women even know they are pregnant, particularly in cases of unexpected pregnancies (you know, the people most likely to consider an abortion.) That’s sooner than most fetal abnormalities or conditions — the kind that could be inhumanely damaging or fatal to a baby carried to term — can be detected. Basically, it’s a laughably impractical cut-off point for abortions. It’s not supposed to be practical. On its feet, this law would effectively represent a complete ban of abortions in Arkansas.
That’s not to even mention how difficult it can be to even detect a fetal heartbeat during the early weeks when most women seek abortions. Before 8 weeks-ish, the only way to adequately check for a heartbeat is by sticking a giant stick (not the fun kind) up a woman’s business (not in the fun way.) That’s right, sisters, transvaginal ultrasounds are back! Everyone’s favorite version of #LegitimateRape.
Senate Bill 134 would only allow for the pursuit of criminal charges against doctors who perform abortions outside of the tiny time window they’re allowed, and not the women who receive them, a stipulation that saves anti-choice proponents the backlash that would assuredly come on the tail of the first women prosecuted with the law. But best believe that any woman who contracts injuries or infections from the back alley abortions they were forced to procure will become unwitting poster children for the “inherent dangers” of abortions. Ugh. Another shining example of legislation that first creates dangerous conditions, and then uses the god-awful consequences of those conditions to justify its moral underpinnings. You gotta give them credit: anti-choice groups sure are stretching that Public Relations 101 class for all its worth. Even the bill’s nickname — the “heartbeat bill” — packs an added emotional pull.
Similar bills, like one in Ohio in 2011, have failed in state legislatures, but the Arkansas bill has a substantial shot at getting voted into law, with Republicans taking majority control of both the House and Senate in the last election.