GOP bill would ban abortions when heartbeat is detected

GOP bill would ban abortions when heartbeat is detected
© Greg Nash

A House committee on Wednesday considered a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected. 

The "Heartbeat Protection Act," authored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion if the fetus has a "detectable" heart beat.  

King acknowledged that such a bill, if signed into law, would face legal challenges, possibly going all the way to the Supreme Court. 

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"It is important that Congress passes such a strong pro-life bill now because President Trump will hopefully appoint one or two more justices to the Supreme Court, making this a profound moment in the pro-life movement," King said during a hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

"President Trump is actively changing the makeup of our judicial system with strong, conservative nominees who would hear arguments on this bill while it's being challenged on the way to the Supreme Court." 

A committee spokesperson would not say when or if the bill would be called for a vote. 

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week Conservative pressure on Sessions grows Clock ticking down on NSA surveillance powers MORE (R-Va.) praised the bill Tuesday. 

"Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, medical knowledge regarding the development of unborn babies and their capacities at various stages of growth has advanced dramatically," he said.

"Congress has the power, and the responsibility, to acknowledge the significance of these profound developments through the enactment of pro-life legislation."

Advocates who support abortion rights slammed the legislation.

"These decisions should be left up to a woman, in consultation with her doctor and her family — and never made for her by a politician," said Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 

"This attack on women’s health and rights isn’t just dangerous, it’s extremely out of touch with what the majority of Americans want from their representatives.”

The activists say the bill would effectively ban abortion after six weeks, because that's the earliest a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus. Many women don't even know they're pregnant at that point, they argue. 

“This bill is not about science or facts. It is just another case of men who don't think women have the right to control their own bodies. This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional and it's time to stop the bans,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the House's Pro Choice Caucus. 
 
Opponents also note that the bill doesn't provide exceptions for victims of rape or incest. 

There are exceptions in the bill for cases where the life of the mother is endangered.