The Republicans introduced a bill into U.S. Congress titled “H.R.490 – Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017” in January of this year. Set to be deliberated at the beginning of November, if passed, it will effectively prevent many women from having abortions before they even find out they’re pregnant.
The Heartbeat Protection Act strives to protect every heartbeat in existence, which includes those within the wombs of pregnant women. However, many women do not even know that they’re pregnant before a heartbeat can be detected, which means abortion would not be an option available to them.
Think about it: What if you didn’t know you were pregnant until your next period, which could already be four weeks away? Heartbeats are often detected at the six week mark, meaning you have a “two weeks grace” period to go to your doctor, make an extremely important decision, and get a medical procedure performed, all within that 14-day timeframe.
Plus, many women experience irregular bleeding during the first trimester, so they may not even realize they’re pregnant within that six week period. So, you could essentially find out you’re pregnant and, even if it’s within the first trimester, be denied the right to have an abortion.
We have come a long way since the days in the U.S. when women (and other minority groups, and even many men, for that matter) couldn’t enjoy basic human rights, but it’s bills like these that threaten our legal freedom. Why should we have to base our decisions on the opinions of others, or be subjected to their judgement?
So, what is the “Heartbeat Bill,” and how could it affect abortion rates in the States?
The Heartbeat Bill Could Ban Abortions Before Women Even Know They’re Pregnant
This Wednesday, November 1, Republicans will be holding the first hearing on a bill that would ban abortions after the six week mark, or whenever the heartbeat can be detected. There would be no exceptions for rape or incest, and physicians who break the law by performing abortions for their patients could go to jail for an astonishing five years.
“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,” said Rep. Steve King, who is sponsoring the bill. “My legislation will require all physicians, before conducting an abortion, to detect the heartbeat of the unborn child. If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.”
Sure, many unborn fetuses have never seen the outside world because of the abortion industry. However, the abortion industry has also helped many women (and men) who weren’t ready or simply didn’t want to be a parent, and has reduced the number of children living on the streets or in the foster care system.
Abortion is not as black and white as many people seem to think it is, and at the end of the day, it’s a very personal decision, one that women should never be scrutinized for. If many of the people who identify as “Republican” don’t support abortion, then that’s okay; but, they shouldn’t force others to share that opinion or strip women of the right to an abortion just because they don’t support them.
The term heartbeat in this context is also misleading. As Bustle explains it:
Although many people use the phrase “fetal heartbeat” in reference to this type of legislation, some physicians have argued that the term “fetal heartbeat” is misleading: While fetuses do exhibit cardiac activity at six weeks, this happens in something called the fetal pole, a millimeters-thick part of a fetus that bears little resemblance to a human heart, despite the colloquial use of the term “fetal heartbeat” to refer to it.
One could argue the Republicans are simply misleading the public by using this type of wording to play on their heartstrings, drawing inaccurate parallels between a fetus and a person. Encouragingly, however, most news outlets say it’s extremely unlikely that a bill like this would ever be passed at a national level.
Although heartbeat bills similar to this one have gained traction at a state level in the past, most of them weren’t this extreme, and very few ever passed. North Dakota and Arkansas were the first states to ever pass them in 2013, but Arkansas prevented abortion after 12 weeks, not 6.
Federal courts have also recognized that this bill directly violates the constitution and Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in favour of abortion and purporting that women should have the right to make their own medical decisions. Other heartbeat bills have been proposed at the state level but most haven’t passed due to their controversy.
Given the fact that this particular bill is far more strict than most, as it would effectively prevent many women from having abortions after the six week mark, it is unlikely that it will be passed or supported by the American public.
Even if it is passed, despite odds being stacked against it, the fact of the matter is that most Americans are pro-choice. Pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean pro-abortion, it just means you believe women should have the right to decide whether or not they want to have one.
Regardless of your own personal beliefs or lifestyle choices, we should not judge one another. Placing judgement on someone is simply a reflection of how you feel, and it says a lot more about you and your inner beliefs than it does about the person you’re judging.
If we’re placing judgement on another human being, then we’re not coming from a place of love or neutrality. Though it’s important to stand up for what you believe in and do what you feel is right, you can do so without stripping away the rights of other people.
If you are anti-abortion, then don’t have an abortion. Be the change you wish to see in the world, but don’t inflict your hatred and anger onto others and then expect they’ll make those changes with you.
Though this bill is unlikely to pass, perhaps it will spark a conversation society so clearly needs to have. Abortion still incites much rage in many people, but we need to somehow work together, as a collective, to transmute that negativity and show a little more compassion for one another’s decisions.
Outside of abortion clinics, it’s not uncommon to see people holding signs covered with hateful words and expressing unkind sentiments to the people walking in. Can you imagine being a woman about to get an abortion, already a stressful and emotional experience, and you have to deal with the added stress of hateful protestors? Getting an abortion can be an extremely difficult decision for a woman to make, and we shouldn’t be making that experience even harder for her.
Perhaps this “heartbeat bill” will remind us that we all need to live a little more from our hearts and be more compassionate toward one another. Regardless of our personal opinions, it’s important that we all respect the choices each one of us makes, because we’re all on our own journeys.
You may not like the way someone is living their life, but at the end of the day, it’s their life to lead. Odds are that someone out there dislikes the way you’re living yours, but they’re probably not preventing you from living it the way you’d like to. With that, let’s all try to be a little more compassionate, and perhaps one day we won’t be debating controversial bills like these because they won’t even be proposed in the first place.
If you’re wondering what spiritual teachings, even outside of conventional religions, state about abortion, it used to be seen entirely as a negative thing because a life was “being taken.” This was a predominant perspective found in Buddhist and ancient Vedic teachings, for example. But the world has changed, and the wisdom has evolved with us. Even the Dalai Lama has said: “I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to each circumstance.”
This shift can be seen throughout many religions, as the veils that once separated us thin and more people become accepting of others. Even Christianity is evolving and adapting their belief systems regarding topics that used to be more controversial like abortion and sexual preference.
When it all comes down to it, we’re all living very different realities as each one of us lives out our human experience. There is no universal answer to whether or not abortion is right or wrong for each individual soul because each person is unique, and each situation differs greatly from one another.
As a result, we shouldn’t try to govern each other’s decisions pertaining to abortion, but rather support one another on our journeys. As the world evolves toward a more loving, peaceful state, it’s important that we learn to accept one another and the paths each soul takes, regardless of our own personal beliefs.