Arkansas introduces a “heartbeat bill” that would jail doctors for performing abortions after 6 weeks

candy heartsLooks like Arkansas is the latest state to consider a so-called “heartbeat bill.”

Arkansas would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected under a bill introduced by a Republican senator Monday, a proposal that would prohibit the medical procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Sen. Jason Rapert filed legislation that would require a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and if a mother’s life is in danger.

Doctors who performed abortions after the cut off would be punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

As we noted a couple years ago when Ohio became the first state to try to pull this stunt, by leaving just two weeks for most women to find out they’re pregnant and get an abortion, laws like these are essentially out-right bans. Really, there is little difference between a law like this and a so-called Personhood measure–or, for that matter, a law that simply says “Abortion is not allowed.” 

As far as I can tell, the only benefit of choosing fetal heartbeat as the arbitrary cut-off point is that it gives anti-choicers a chance to get creative with absurd advocacy tactics like having fetuses “testify” in the legislature and sending heart-shaped balloons to their opponents.

Ohio’s heartbeat bill ultimately died because legislators were concerned “that the resulting law might have been found unconstitutional.” Um, ya think? Perhaps before anti-choicers in Arkansas decided they do not actually want to spend time and money to defend a law that’s in direct violation of Roe v. Wade, they’ll have a chance to run a campaign using candy hearts? Seems like that’s just waiting to happen.

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Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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screenshot of ship from Vessel

Watch the new doc on one doctor’s quest to offer safe abortion where it’s illegal

The new documentary Vessel tells the story of Women on Waves, founded by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts who sailed the world in an “abortion ship,” offering off-shore medical abortions in the international waters surrounding countries where abortion is outlawed. Her project eventually morphed into Women on Web, which does great, life-saving work by sending abortion pills by mail to people lacking legal access. The film has opened in NYC, and is now available for streaming on iTunes.

Also, be sure to check out this interview with director/producer Diana Whitten on the Community site. As she notes, the story, unfortunately, holds particular relevance in the US today. “Due to recent legislative attacks on reproductive healthcare, the situation for U.S. women in many ...

The new documentary Vessel tells the story of Women on Waves, founded by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts who sailed the world in an “abortion ship,” offering off-shore medical abortions in the international waters surrounding countries where abortion is ...