The Arkansas Abortion Ban Could Spawn ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Bills Coming To A State Near You

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dominosThe successful passage of Arkansas’s controversial and unconstitutional new abortion ban is rallying the anti-abortion movement and could provide serious momentum to similar ‘fetal heartbeat’ bills around the country. Hopefully, it will also spark enough outrage to demand that federal courts get involved and uphold a woman’s right to choose, guaranteed to her in Roe v. Wade.

Today, the New York Times has a short profile of the Arkansas legislator who worked tirelessly to win the 12-week abortion ban. The man is, by all accounts, an anti-abortion lawmaker. Reproductive choice is the topic of the bills he writes. It’s what he campaigns on. This is State Senator Jason Rapert‘s issue and the new legislation is seen as his hard-fought victory. Of course, he already has a new crusade to strip Planned Parenthood of all its state and federal financing.

Arkansas’s new ban could be opening the door to more states who are considering 12-week abortion bans, the earliest in the country. Such proposals could soon pass in Ohio, Kansas and North Dakota. They have been introduced in Kentucky, Mississippi and Wyoming. And with this growing swell of states looking to fundamentally alter the landscape of abortion rights in our country, the Supreme Court might not have a choice but to get involved.

Right now, it is a federally guaranteed right that women can have an abortion up until the point of viability, normally thought to be between 22 to 24 weeks. Very few abortions are performed this late, but they are still a protected right. First, Arizona pushed the envelope just a little with a ban at 20 weeks. Already, pro-choice lawyers are filing complaints and suits against this breach. But Arkansas’s new 12-week ban pushes things much further.

The ‘fetal heartbeat’ element of abortion legislation has actually been something of a milestone for anti-abortion advocates. Forced ultrasounds are often proposed specifically because legislatures want women to have to listen to the fetus’s heartbeat, hoping that it will cause enough mental anguish for her to change her mind. Of course, conservative legislatures rarely want to help these women once they’ve made that choice and given birth to the baby. Then, if she needs help caring for or supporting it, she’s on her own.

Bryan Fischer of the conservative American Family Association called the Arkansas law “a milestone.” And it most certainly is. Hopefully, it’s also a turning point where pro-choice advocates come together and defend a woman’s right to decide how to handle her own pregnancy. If we don’t act soon, we could see even more of these extreme bills restricting abortion access for women across the country.

(Photo: Karuka/Shutterstock)