The House discussed a bill that would effectively ban all abortions after 6 weeks. There are 169 cosponsors of this bill so far, and 9 of them are North Carolina Republicans. Even though this bill could pass the House, it is unlikely to pass the Senate. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it; it is a clear attack on abortion rights.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the GOP’s latest pet project: The Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would effectively ban the procedure after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. If passed, it would basically criminalize abortion at six weeks—which, according to bill sponsor U.S. Representative Steve King of Iowa, is pretty much the point.
“If the heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected,” King said during the hearing’s opening statements. He also brought along a sonogram machine, and narrated the sounds of a fetus’s heartbeat for dramatic flair.
The bill has 169 cosponsors to date—all Republican, save for one Dem from Minnesota—including nine of the ten House Republicans from North Carolina (we’re going to assume Virginia Foxx missed the memo). It’s unlikely to go very far. Even if it does pass the House, it probably won’t clear the Senate—and if it did, it likely wouldn’t pass constitutional muster. Heartbeat laws violate the protections established inRoe v. Wade, which stipulate that states can’t ban abortions before fetal viability, which usually occurs around twenty-four weeks.
Symbolic though it may be, there’s still a purpose behind this effort. After all, the more extreme the anti-abortion bill, the less extreme others may seem by comparison. That could galvanize anti-abortion lawmakers to introduce even more extreme legislation on the state level—including in North Carolina, which already has some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country.