This morning, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed into law a “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy. The state legislature passed the bill in late March and it has been awaiting Kemp’s signature, though he assured Republicans and pro-life activists in his state that he intended to approve the measure.
The legislation is the latest in a series of state efforts to regulate abortion earlier in pregnancy. Already this year, legislatures in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio have passed heartbeat bills that were subsequently signed by Republican governors. A few months ago, Iowa’s heartbeat bill was struck down by a state judge, who found that it violated the Iowa state constitution.
After Georgia’s legislature passed the bill, the ACLU announced its intention to sue the state government should Kemp sign the bill, and a number of celebrities, including actress and progressive activist Alyssa Milano, have threatened to boycott the state over the legislation.
Though it is unlikely that courts will uphold this type of legislation in the near future, without action on the part of the Supreme Court to loosen the pro-abortion regime created by Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, heartbeat bills are still a valuable tool in a broader pro-life legislative strategy.
Abortion-rights supporters consistently describe abortion procedures in euphemistic terms, dismissing embryos or fetuses in the womb as a “clump of cells” or “just part of its mother.” One pro-life activist reports that at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in April on the federal 20-week abortion ban, a pro-abortion state senator from Georgia, Jen Jordan, lamented the bill pending in her state as containing protections for children possessing “what some call a heartbeat.”
These are the rhetorical games abortion defenders must play to hide the reality of the right they seek to defend and promote.
Heartbeat bills force us to consider the reality of abortion rather than the meaningless jargon concocted to disguise it. What woman has two heartbeats? And what “clump of cells” has its own heartbeat? Because of bills like the one signed today in Georgia, more people are considering the scientific reality of fetal heartbeats and the biological reality that every fetus is a distinct, living human being.