Vital Signs: Heartbeats not a sign of life in Arkansas

by Courtney Crandell
Posted 3/25/14, 01:20 pm

Viability vs. heartbeat. A federal judge declared Arkansas’s 12-week abortion ban unconstitutional, claiming that viability, not a heartbeat, remains the key factor in determining whether abortions should be allowed. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright halted the law’s enforcement last year as the court reviewed it. In her March 14 ruling, she cited previous court decisions that said abortions shouldn’t be restricted until after a baby reaches viability, which is typically considered 24 weeks. Wright left in place a portion of the law that requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat and to notify the mother if one is present.

No doctor necessary. But women who want to listen to their babies heartbeats don’t need to wait for a doctor’s visit anymore. The $129 Bellabeat Tracking System used with its companion BabyWatch smartphone app allows a mother to listen to her baby’s heartbeat and view a moving vital signs visual, Laptopmagazine reported. Expectant mothers can log kicks and share their babies’ development with family and friends. But some doctors caution mothers against fully relying on the system to track a baby’s health. The system may delay mothers from reporting concerns, and some mothers may have difficulty distinguishing their own heartbeat from the baby’s.

Potential sex abuse. The Family Foundation of Virginia (FFV) is investigating two cases in which 14-year-old girls were able to get abortions without the legally required parental consent. Victoria Cobb, the foundation’s president, said that without parental consent, the pregnancies could have been the result of child sexual abuse, or even sex trafficking.

The girls, who had abortions at Roanoke Medical Center for Women in October and December 2012, are cited in a Virginia Department of Health inspection report from Feb. 25, 2013. The incidents should have been reported to the local police department and the commonwealth’s attorney, FFV claims.

The foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department of health to see if the abortionist reported the potential sex abuse cases. After submitting two requests and filing a petition against the state with the Richmond Circuit Court, the foundation received an answer on March 20: “VDH does not have any documents that are responsive to your request.”

“The medical personnel at an abortion center, or any medical facility, can’t just assume that a girl isn’t a victim of sexual abuse,” Cobb said. “We have laws requiring that medical personnel report these cases to law enforcement. … It is now a way we can ensure that these young girls are not victims.”

Definition altered. The World Health Organization (WHO) has altered its definition for “unsafe abortions,” claiming that just because an abortion is illegal in a country doesn’t mean that it is unsafe. The WHO has considered abortion legality to be synonymous with safety since the early 1990s, a tool used to encourage abortion legalization, according to European Life Network.

Stateside. An Iowa bill banning so-called “web cam” abortions died in the Democrat-controlled Senate after initially passing in the House. Senate Republicans held a press conference March 17 requesting that the bill be allowed to advance to the floor for a vote. Senate Democrats refused, despite a Des Moines Register poll that found 66 percent of Iowans opposed telemed abortions.

South Carolina’s House approved a fetal pain bill March 19 that prohibits abortion after the 19th week of pregnancy. It is now headed to the Senate for a vote. The Senate also will consider a bill requiring abortionists to get admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Georgia legislature passed a bill March 18 that prevents most abortion coverage in state employee health insurance plans provided under Obamacare, the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported. The bill only allows exceptions in cases threatening the life of the mother. It now waits for Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.  

Courtney Crandell

Courtney is a Virginia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @CourtneyLeeC.

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