“Heartbeat” Bill Restricts Rights

The Editorial Board

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Republican state representatives introduced the “heartbeat” bill, a piece of legislation designed to ban abortions on fetuses with a detectable heartbeat. Using the tired rhetoric of pro-life groups in the past, Republicans argue that new scientific developments have allowed us to hear a discernable heartbeat earlier than ever — a fact they are touting as further proof that life begins at conception — or at least, 18 days after.

Regardless of the age-old debate over whether a fetus is a “living being,” many women are entirely unaware of their pregnancy 18 days in. And for most fetuses, a heartbeat is discernable within a mere six weeks. After just six weeks, many women assume they’ve merely skipped a period; others are unable to find adequate funds to pay for an abortion in their first trimester. Regardless, many Republican lawmakers believe that within 18 days, the fetus has a “right” to life — and the “rights” of the pregnant mother are entirely ignored.

With a Republican House, Senate and Supreme Court in the state of Ohio (in addition to our newly elected Republican governor), Republican lawmakers have complete control over all three branches of the state government. Although the bill will likely be declared unconstitutional, supporters are hoping that an appeal will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Like Bill Clinton’s presidency, when pro-life groups were actively targeting abortion facilities, Obama’s Democratic administration seems to have re-awakened the pro-life movement, which had been relatively dormant during the Bush years.

The “heartbeat” bill clearly violates Roe v. Wade, which states that a woman can abort her fetus until it is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” Yet its introduction in the House is nevertheless extremely worrisome for women in the United States. While Ohio’s state legislature should focus on much needed job creation and economic recovery, its focus on social issues is already unnecessary and untimely.

Introducing a bill that clearly violates a woman’s right to choose is deplorable at any time, but introducing such an appalling bill with the word “heartbeat” in its name right before Valentines Day takes the Republican initiative to a new low. The anti-choice bill with the innocent-sounding name will be the harshest abortion restriction in the country if it passes. It is the sixth abortion bill to be created this year since Republicans took control of the House, five of which were introduced in Ohio. Although Ohio currently has a ban on late term abortions — called “partial-birth” abortions in the bill — the most recent attempt to ban most abortions in Ohio in 2006 failed.

This latest push for anti-choice legislation clearly denies an individual’s right to personal autonomy as stated in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, and Ohio residents need to take a stand against attacks on its residents’ right to privacy. Although previous attempts to deny women the right to choice have failed, the current political climate could very well limit freedom as we know it.