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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St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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