Ohio “Heartbeat” bill could ban abortion just 18 days after conception

Ohio lawmakers will soon introduce a new abortion bill that would make abortion illegal as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, a move that some commentators say would mean a complete ban on abortion.

The “Heartbeat” bill will apparently be introduced later this month, right before Valentine’s Day (Get it? Hearts! Why let an unprecedented attack on women’s bodily autonomy get in the way of your seriously tacky marketing?) by Republican Representative Lynn Wachtmann. The bill is the first of its kind in the country, and if it passes we can expect copycats from other strictly anti-choice states like Texas and Oklahoma.

Robin Marty, writing at Alternet, explains why this bill would be tantamount to a complete abortion ban:

By establishing heartbeat as the criteria for banning abortion, the bill effectively rejects abortion from any point after roughly four weeks post conception, a time in which fetal heartbeat can be seen via high quality ultrasound machine. For most women, that would provide a window of two weeks or less in order to learn she was pregnant, make her decision about the pregnancy, arrange for an appointment, gather money for an abortion, obtain the mandatory counseling and sit through the required 24 hour waiting period. For a woman with irregular menstrual cycles, by the time she realizes she is pregnant it likely would already be too late to do anything but continue the pregnancy.

As Marty points out, this bill is, at first glance, less restrictive than the absurd “personhood” bills we’ve seen in the last few years, most notably in Colorado. Those bills grant constitutional rights to fertilized eggs and embryos, which of course do not have heartbeats. But the “heartbeat” bill is far more targeted at abortion than the personhood bills, which also inhibit IVF and some intrauterine contraceptive devices. While these lighter restrictions sound better to pro-choice ears, Marty sees them as a curse rather than a blessing. “With ‘Personhood,’ pro-choicers were able to hang all women’s autonomy together,” she says. “With ‘Heartbeat’ anti-choicers are trying to isolate women who want to terminate pregnancies, targeting them in isolation.”

If you are in Ohio and want to get involved in efforts to stop this bill, contact Planned Parenthood, which divides the state into Northeast, Southwest and Central Ohio. This shit is serious, and something I’ll be keeping a close eye on. If you’re in-state and want to get involved, don’t put it off.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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