On Tuesday December 6, Ohio lawmakers, emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, passed the controversial “Heartbeat bill” which had been added onto a child abuse bill. The law, if signed by Gov. Kasich, would make it a fifth degree felony for a physician to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected unless continuing the pregnancy would put the mother at risk of death or serious disability. This bill is no doubt seen as a victory by evangelicals and the so called “pro-life” crowd, but is an absolute travesty for women’s rights and an affront to science and medicine.
The bill effectively makes abortion illegal as most pregnancies are not recognized until week 4 or 5, giving a very narrow window for a woman to terminate before a heartbeat is detectable. A heartbeat may have once been the definitive sign of life but modern advances in medicine have shown one can have a heartbeat and still be brain dead. A six week old fetus is the size of a bean, with nothing more than rudimentary development of what will become a brain and nervous system and most importantly, is incapable of life outside the womb. Most women who miscarry at this stage of pregnancy, do so outside of the hospital with no medical intervention at all. It is estimated that as many as half of pregnancies end via miscarriage during this same time period, a number understated by the authors of this piece of legislation.
This bill takes away a woman’s right to decide what is best for her and her family, completely ignoring the fact that an unwanted pregnancy carried to term will result in the birth of an unwanted child. It uses language designed to incite guilt in women considering abortion by insisting the fetus be called an “unborn human individual”. It also eliminates a doctor’s right to administer medical care based on her own medical training and her patient’s wishes and does so at the threat of criminal charges.
Further, the bill states a fetus is a life from the moment of conception and calculates fetal age from the date of a woman’s last period, generally weeks before conception occurs, when the fetus is nothing more than an unfertilized egg. Even someone with no more than a middle school understanding of biology should be able to see the problem with that definition.
The ACLU has vowed to fight this legislation, should it become law and similar laws have been overturned in the past. Ohio legislators, however, are confident that President-elect Trump will stack the Supreme Court firmly in their favor. If he does, Ohio can say goodbye to a woman’s right to choose and other states will surely follow suit.