So-Called “Heartbeat Bills” Across the Country

Ohio, my home state, recently became the third this year alone to pass an extreme so-called “heartbeat” bill, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — sometimes just  six weeks into a pregnancy. Ohio’s new governor, Mike DeWine, signed the bill into law earlier this month.

Former DCAF president Kersha Deibel, who is now President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region said it well:

“Politicians in the Ohio State Legislature just passed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the entire country. And they’re not stopping there –– after years of passing anti-abortion laws under the guise of protecting patient health and safety, they lay bare their true motives: to ban abortion in the state of Ohio. Politicians have no right to dictate personal medical decisions. Make no mistake –– these bills punish women. When politicians attack health care, they disproportionately impact people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and young people. We must work to ensure access to health care does not depend on who you are, where you live, or how much money you make.”

Versions of this dangerous “heartbeat bill” have also been passed in Georgia, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Let’s be honest here: most people don’t even know yet that they are pregnant at six weeks. That’s only two weeks after a missed period,  when the fetus is the size of a pea. Even more disturbing: the new Ohio law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Six-week bans were once considered extreme even by some anti-abortion groups, and Ohio’s previous governor, Republican John Kasich, called the ban “blatantly unconstitutional” after vetoing it twice.

But with the recent dramatic right turn of the Supreme Court, Roe vs. Wade is in greater danger than ever of being overturned entirely. Anti-abortion groups have been emboldened by the Trump administration, especially radical Vice President Mike Pence, who vowed to see the end of legal abortion “in our time.” At a time when countries like Ireland are expanding  abortion access, the United States is rapidly turning back the clock on reproductive rights, along with threatening the LGBT community, people of color, and Indigenous peoples.

The new law will, of course, be challenged in court, subjecting the taxpayers of Ohio to lengthy and expensive legal battles. The ACLU and Ohio abortion providers are already planning to sue the state. But, with anti-choice judges such as Brett Kavanaugh now in lifetime appointments, taking this battle all the way to the Supreme Court is exactly what many anti-choice extremists are hoping for.

With the far right fighting against better sex education and increased access to birth control, along with the shrinking number of healthcare centers that offer abortion services (for example, Ohio has 8, down from 17 in 2014), a perfect storm is brewing that will prove disastrous for families around the country.

That is why I’m proud to be a DCAF volunteer. We will continue to help provide support for pregnant people in our community and the increasing number of people who must travel to the DC area to seek abortions. No matter what happens.

By volunteer Molly C.  This blog reflects the views of the author.