The Heartbeat Bill Explained

In 1973, the U.S Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, guaranteed the constitutional right that the access to abortion was legal and provided a ‘right to privacy’. 46 years after abortion was approved, the issue has become controversial in the U.S. A new tide of abortion restrictions enacted by some states have caused numerous people to argue against the controversy. 

Abortion legislation in Georgia and Alabama escalated in the news cycle during these past few weeks. Georgia and Alabama’s governors, Brian Kemp and Kay Ivey, have both signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country: the ‘Heartbeat Bill’, causing an uproar from citizens in both states. The Heartbeat Bill prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. However, according to reproductive rights advocates and doctors, it restrains abortion before many women know they are pregnant, which is a near-total ban on the procedure. This is because a fetus’ heart starts to pound as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when an ultrasound may be able to detect the pulsing of what will become the fetus’s heart. Moreover, this law does not exempt pregnancies resulted from cases of rape or incest. Alabama has passed another law in which a doctor who proceeds with the operation will face up to 10 years in prison. 

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group focused on reproductive health and rights, has a few speculations on why these bills are getting passed. “With so many abortion restrictions in place in their states, lawmakers may see the heartbeat bill as the new ‘trend’,” Nash said. “When politicians see counterparts getting attention and earning political capital for their heartbeat bills, it can become a matter of keeping up with the flow.” People who support this law are saying that every time these bills get passed, it teaches everyone that a beating heart results in a new life that ‘deserves’ to live. 

While some may be satisfied with these decisions, many are not. Actress Busy Philipps took to social media to encourage women on speaking about their abortion and pregnancy stories. With the hashtag #youknowme, a viral internet campaign was born – similar to the famous #MeToo movement. “1 in 4 women have had an abortion,” Philipps wrote on Twitter. “Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme. So let’s do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let’s share it and start to end the shame. Use #youknowme and share your truth.” The tweet, which has nearly 10,000 retweets and almost 50,000 likes, went viral as women shared their abortions using #youknowme. Some users’ stories centered around emotional tales of sexual abuse or assault. Like such, although the controversial debate on the abortion laws caused large uproars, only time will tell what effect the ‘Hearbeat Bill” will have on the states that decide to pass it. 

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