‘Heartbeat’ bills in the U.S. are just another way to oppress women

By Yair Oded

Updated May 19, 2020 at 02:57 PM

Reading time: <1 minute

A domestic war appears to be brewing in the United States over a highly sensitive issue: abortion. While abortion has long been a controversial topic in America, it was, at least temporarily, laid to rest following the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which granted women across the United States the right to abort their pregnancy up until the point of fetal viability, which usually occurs after 24 or 25 weeks. Yet as conservative sentiments have risen in the U.S., a string of laws emerged in various states that seek to prohibit abortion from the moment a heartbeat is detected.

The most recent one, which passed on Wednesday in Alabama, places the harshest restrictions and effectively prohibits and criminalises all cases of abortion in the state. As the turmoil surrounding these laws mounts, experts seek to puncture holes in their scientific soundness, particularly as far as their ‘heartbeat’ arguments are concerned.

The controversial Alabama law—which outlaws abortion even in cases or rape and incest and stipulates that doctors who perform it could face up to 99 years in prison—is merely a hyped-up version of other anti-abortion laws instituted by six other states and is in the pipeline in fourteen others. All such laws mark the point of ‘heartbeat detection’ as an indication of fetal viability of an “unborn human individual.” This language though is highly misleading, particularly the usage of the terms ‘human individual’ and ‘viability’.

At the point when fetal viability is first detected, roughly six weeks into the pregnancy, the ‘unborn individual’ is on average a three-to-four millimetre concentration of cells, making it even more understandable why many question the validity of referring to this creature as a human being.

Yet particularly problematic is the law’s usage of the term heartbeat, which at the six-week mark-up constitutes more of a basic electrical activity of cell clusters. “At six weeks, the embryo is forming what will eventually develop into mature systems. There’s an immature neurological system, and there’s a very immature cardiovascular system,” Jennifer Kerns, an ob-gyn at UC San Francisco tells WIRED. Kerns goes on to state that the rhythm referred to by the heartbeat bills is in fact “a group of cells with electrical activity. That’s what the heartbeat is at that stage of gestation.” Adding that “We are in no way talking about any kind of cardiovascular system.”  

Opponents of the bills highlight the countless negative ramifications they will have on women. Firstly, many women are still unaware of their pregnancy within the first six weeks (when a heartbeat is detected), and so female residents of states like Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia will get no chance whatsoever to abort their pregnancy. And the linguistic ambiguity of some of the laws would criminalise the termination of pregnancies that pose a health-risks to the mothers once a heartbeat is detected, and even go so far as prosecute mothers who experienced a miscarriage. The heartbeat laws are also predicted to disproportionately affect women of low-income backgrounds, as they are the least likely to be able to afford to travel and abort their pregnancy outside of the state.  

Let us make one thing crystal clear: this is not a righteous crusade to protect innocent lives by benevolent lawmakers. This is a calculated and deliberate attack on women—on their right to sexual and personal independence. It is an aggressive rebellion launched by men and women who dread the prospect of female liberation, agency, and advancement. It is evident, for instance, in the countless other bills that surface alongside the heartbeat laws that attempt to cripple women, such as the one in Ohio seeking to ban access to birth control pills and IUDs.

In 2019 alone, over 300 anti-abortion bills were drafted across the United States. While some have already been challenged in court—as will the ones currently being passed—by organisations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, it is unclear what their fate will be. Given the Supreme Court’s increasingly conservative make-up, it is certainly possible that while deliberating on one of those bills its majority will decide to overturn its landmark 1973 decision and officially re-open the door to abortion bans.

Americans can no longer afford to view this as a ‘women’s issue’ exclusively. This is a race issue; it is a class issue; it is an LGBTQ issue; it is a human rights issue, and it warrants a collective reaction.

Keep On Reading

By Abby Amoakuh

Three young girls in Sierra Leone have died after female genital mutilation rituals despite calls for ban

By Abby Amoakuh

Industry insider accuses Kris Jenner’s boyfriend Corey Gamble of grooming Justin Bieber and more in wild interview

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

PrettyLittleThing’s chaotic open casting call event is the fast fashion brand’s latest exploitative venture

By Abby Amoakuh

Everything you need to know about Taylor Swift’s new album The Tortured Poets Department

By Charlie Sawyer

TikToker Cliff Tan shares his tips on how to feng shui your room for love ahead of Valentine’s Day

By Abby Amoakuh

Piers Morgan’s shocking interview reveals Fiona Harvey set on suing Netflix and Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd

By Charlie Sawyer

JoJo Siwa roasted for cringe TikTok where she thinks she’s singing in German

By Abby Amoakuh

Alabama Barker responds to Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram post about new son Rocky

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Macklemore slams Kendrick Lamar and Drake’s beef in new Pro-Palestine song

By Abby Amoakuh

Men are warming up to lip fillers and finding more than just one use for the injections

By J'Nae Phillips

How Gen Z women are using fashion to say f*ck you to the male gaze

By Charlie Sawyer

What are ZYN pouches? Tucker Carlson’s go-to nicotine pillows that are fuelling right-wing Gen Z men

By Abby Amoakuh

Everything we know so far about The Summer I Turned Pretty season 3

By Abby Amoakuh

Why did Jennifer Coolidge shout out evil gays in her Emmys 2024 acceptance speech?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Lego urges California police department to stop using its toy heads for mugshot images

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Is Brazilian weight loss influencer Mila De Jesus dead? Fans concerned about cause of death

By Charlie Sawyer

Democrat fires white supremacist jab at Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying she’s late for Klan meeting

By J'Nae Phillips

Why Gen Z still turn to nature and the great outdoors for fashion inspo years after gorpcore’s rise

By Charlie Sawyer

Jenna Ortega shocks fans by departing hit Netflix show

By Charlie Sawyer

How did YouTuber Tana Mongeau become so rich? Stalker stories and messy relationships