Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

The heartbeat of the pro-life movement

Abortion | Protections for babies in early pregnancy gain momentum nationwide
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 4/15/19, 03:58 pm

Pro-life groups across the country hope a wave of new “heartbeat laws” adopted by states will not only protect babies from abortion in the early stages of pregnancy but also give the Supreme Court an opportunity to reverse its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that led to the legalization of abortion nationwide.

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed a law defending unborn babies who have a detectable heartbeat, which usually develops around six weeks of gestation. Under the law, abortions can only be performed after that point to save the life of the mother.

“We’d like to see abortions not even happening in Ohio, and that’s our goal,” said Jamieson Gordon, director of communications for Ohio Right to Life. “But we also understand that some pieces of legislation like the heartbeat bill could be very good vehicles to take to the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.” She said the pro-life movement in the state has worked to chip away at Roe v. Wade for a long time. Ohio passed 22 pro-life initiatives in the past eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union already promised to challenge the law before it takes effect in three months, but with a pro-life attorney general in Ohio, Gordon said Ohio Right to Life is confident the state will put up a good defense.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told me that because of the push for extreme pro-abortion laws in Virginia and New York and the nomination of pro-life Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the pro-life movement across the nation has gained a lot of momentum.

“Pro-life state legislatures have really picked up the ball and run with it,” she said. “There’s such positive momentum and energy on the pro-life side as evidenced by the heartbeat bill advancing in Ohio and other states.”

The Georgia legislature passed a heartbeat bill at the end of March, and Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, is expected to sign it soon. The ACLU in Georgia has also vowed to challenge that law, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, also a Republican, signed a heartbeat law on March 21 despite a federal judge’s ruling last year that struck down less-restrictive protections for babies in the state. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, another Republican, signed a heartbeat bill on March 14, but a federal judge blocked it shortly afterward. And a state judge in January found Iowa’s heartbeat law unconstitutional.

In some states, pro-life advocates are shying away from early term abortion laws in favor of other strategies to protect babies. Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, told me that while his organization respected and endorsed many of the state lawmakers who are pushing a heartbeat bill this term, the group doesn’t want to risk a costly legal battle that could end with the state being ordered to pay the legal fees of Planned Parenthood if the law passed and was overturned in court. The state has already redirected Title X family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood, causing the abortion giant to suspend services in Nashville in December.

“In our view, filling the coffers of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU with legal fees is counterproductive,” Harris said. “We’re living in an environment here in Tennessee where we’re winning the battle. And to go backward and allow them to gain the high ground by introducing and passing legislation that can’t currently pass constitutional muster is counterproductive.” Instead, Tennessee Right to Life has supported a measure, which passed out of a Senate committee last week, that would protect most babies from abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Quigley told me there is a wide range of opinions on the best strategy to dismantle Roe v. Wade, and the situation varies by state. But, overall, “certainly, we are hopeful with the new composition of the court,” she said.

A few other heartbeat bills are still waiting for votes in legislatures across the country, as well. Lawmakers introduced two matching bills in both chambers of the Florida legislature and are waiting for them to be assigned to committees. The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee sent a heartbeat bill to the floor last week, but lawmakers haven’t voted on it yet. And Louisiana state Sen. John Milkovich, a Democrat, filed a heartbeat bill in the state Senate this month.

On-campus abortions, take two

The state of California is once again trying to require college student health centers to provide abortion pills. A Senate committee on April 3 approved a bill that would require all public universities to offer on-site medication that induces abortion beginning Jan. 1, 2023. It also would create a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of the pills. The bill will only take effect if $10.1 million in private funds were available by Jan. 1, 2020, and it still needs to go through the state Senate Education Committee before receiving a full floor vote.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill last December, saying it was “not necessary” because abortion services are so easily available off-campus. Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, has said he would have supported the previous bill though he has not commented on the new iteration.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member, said on his podcast The Briefing that the new bill stretches the language of abortion even further by saying “it has to be made not only possible, not only funded, but convenient as a matter of justice.” —R.L.A.

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay Texas state Sen. Jeff Leach (center) with colleagues and supporters at a news conference about pro-life legislation March 7 in Austin, Texas

Across the nation

Texas: The state Senate last week passed a bill that would require providers to give medical care to babies who survived attempted abortions. Medical providers who did not treat abortion survivors could face a fine and up to 10 years in prison. The bill awaits consideration in the House.

A bill that would have criminalized abortion died in a Texas House committee last week. If enacted, the law would have let prosecutors charge abortionists and women who had abortions with assault or criminal homicide, a capital offense. State Rep. Jeff Leach, a pro-life Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, said in a statement that the measure “moves our state and the pro-life cause in the wrong direction.”

Oregon: The state legislature is considering bills that would eliminate the waiting period for terminally ill people requesting physician-assisted suicide and allow life-ending drugs to be given through an injection, IV, or breathing mask. “Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law already lacks effective protections to protect someone from being euthanized,” said Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life. “These bills would further eliminate what protections remain and allow murder to be disguised as suicide.”

New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed a law Monday legalizing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients with fewer than six months left to live. New Jersey joins California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, Montana, and the District of Columbia as jurisdictions where terminally ill people can take a physician-prescribed pill to end their lives.

Florida: A bill under consideration in both houses of the state legislature would require parental consent for a minor to receive an abortion. Current state law requires parental notification but not consent. The proposal includes an exception for medical emergencies.

North Dakota: Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed a law last week to protect babies from dismemberment abortion, in which abortionists use forceps and other tools to tear babies apart and remove them from the womb.

North Carolina: The state Senate Monday debated a born-alive abortion bill similar to one proposed in Texas and in Congress. It would ensure medical care for babies who survive abortions. —Lynde Langdon

Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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