In January House Republicans introduced the Heartbeat Protection Act, which will be heard on November 1. This act would ban abortion after a heartbeat is detectable, which is often at 6 weeks. Since many women don’t even know they are pregnant before 6 weeks, this would effectively ban most abortions. It would also send physicians performing abortions to prison.
At the time it was introduced, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), noted that the legislation directly works in opposition to national abortion protections.
“Since Roe v. Wade was unconstitutionally decided in 1973, nearly 60 million innocent babies’ lives have been ended by the abortion industry, all with a rubber stamp by the federal government,” King said in January. “If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.”
“We think this bill properly applied does eliminate a large, large share of the abortions—90 percent or better—of the abortions in America,” he later told reporters.
So-called “heartbeat” bills gained traction at the state level several years ago, part of a new effort to counter federal abortion law. North Dakota and Arkansas became the first states in the country to pass heartbeat laws in 2013 (Arkansas’ law extended the period to 12 weeks, rather than six.) While federal courts struck down both laws for violating the constitution, similar efforts have cropped up across the country in their wake. Anti-choice lawmakers in Ohio advanced a bill similar to H.R. 490 in 2011, only to put the legislation on hold amid fears that it was too controversial even in conservative circles. Gov. John Kasich (R) later vetoed another bill with a similar ban attached, seemingly due to its constitutional implications.