Six-Week ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Bill – North Dakota Ups The Ante On Abortion In Defiance Of Constitution

A 6-week fetus; unviable for life outside of mother… a “person”?; image by Photo Researchers, Inc. @ScienceClarified

A 6-week fetus; unviable for life outside of mother… a “person”?; image by Photo Researchers, Inc. @ScienceClarified

In the midst of a fundamentalist flurry to turn back the clock on women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights, North Dakota has just jostled into first position as the most draconian with a six-week abortion ban. This follows on the heels of Arkansas, another blood-red state, which just enacted a 12-week ban (one vetoed by Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, but overridden by the GOP majority in both chambers). Given that Arkansas monikered their ban with the aggressive title “fetal pain ban,” North Dakota decided to follow suit, though their log-line is the intentionally more poetic, “fetal heartbeat ban.” As GOP state Representative Bette Grande, the woman behind the new measure, put it:

“The heartbeat is society’s marker for life.”

Think Progress reports on the situation:

House Bill 1456 would make it a felony for a doctor to perform a nonemergency abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as five or six weeks. House Bill 1305 would prohibit abortions sought because a fetus has been or could be diagnosed with any genetically inherited defect, disease or disorder.

The Republican-led state Senate will vote today on the measures, said state Representative Bette Grande of Fargo, who co-sponsored the bills in the Republican-controlled House, where both have passed. Grande said she expects the Senate to approve both and the governor, also a party member, to sign them.

And they say party doesn’t matter!

These are tough times in government: sequester impacts the day-to-day economy, bills are rolling in for long-fought wars sparked by politicians’ lies; billions spent to reconstruct post-war have been found wasted, and GOP lawmakers are still fighting tooth and nail for cuts to our most basic safety nets for the poor and needy. Yet, even the midst of all this intense demand, the GOP remains fixated on the reproductive body parts of women and what those parts can sometimes do when they have sex with men – get pregnant. Mandating that potential result, mandating what women can do with the particular body parts involved with that potential result; even mandating the steps women can take to prevent that potential result, are all at the top of the list of many right-wing legislators. Why is that, when there are so many other more critical, less Constitutionally-protected, issues out there to legislate?

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RELIGION. The religious beliefs of the majority of the right-wing – particularly fundamentalist Christian and Catholics – define the abortion issue as tantamount to “saving life,” which makes legislation on that issue more important to them than even the economy. (Though one does wonder how the incredible loss of life connected to the Constitutionally-protected Second Amendment has less priority to those same right-wingers… or even the staggering loss of life in wars… the children dying in poverty… but let’s not get off the sex/religion thing, please!). If it seems to you that the country is regressing on many social issues, particularly those of women’s reproductive rights, you’re right; it is.

The GOP has been co-opted by the fundamentalists of the Tea Party movement and the über-religious right, and in that shift of power, it has become more theocratic, driven by the dogma of religion rather than the legality and logic of the Constitution. And, as we all know, the issue of abortion, and its question and limitation of when life begins – is filtered through the religious beliefs of those in the debate.

Highly respected Developmental Biologist, Professor Scott Gilbert, made this statement on the matter:

“The entity created by fertilization is indeed a human embryo, and it has the potential to be human adult. Whether these facts are enough to accord it personhood is a question influenced by opinion, philosophy and theology, rather than by science.[Source; emphasis added.]

Opinion, philosophy and theology. Those are the platforms upon which opinions about “when life begins” are built. Not science, not law, not government.

Another fascinating debate on the topic of when life begins and how that relates to the abortion issue can be found at The Survival Doctor, where input from a variety of voices on either side of the issue are posted. After reading the various opinions, it’s easy to reflect back on Professor Gilbert’s statement above; it does come down to opinion, philosophy and theology. Not science. Not government.

And yet we continue to abdicate our protections of all people of varying opinions, philosophies and theologies by, instead, allowing ONE theology to make the law and mandate enforcement of their personal religious beliefs on all others, even those who do not subscribe. How is this possible in a country built on a free society and governed by a Constitution that demands separation of church and state? It has, in fact, happened slowly and quietly over a number of years, driven by fear, insularity, and narcissism. As more became less embracing of change – shifting ethnic and religious demographics in particular – the “take back America” rallying cry shoved many smaller-minded people into positions of power. And from there, we are here we are today… going backwards.

In truth, the matter of when a woman could have an abortion was settled many years ago when Roe v Wade became a Constitutionally-protected right of privacy, with parameters in protection of the unborn child set much later in a women’s pregnancy. Those parameters are now being ignored in service to stricter religious beliefs about “when life begins”:

So-called “fetal heartbeat” bans are blatantly unconstitutional. Even though Roe v. Wade guarantees the right to legal abortion services until the point of viability, typically around 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy, heartbeat bans narrow that window by as much as 17 weeks. North Dakota’s heartbeat measure will also have the unintended consequence of mandating transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, since there’s no other way to detect a fetal heartbeat at such an early stage of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only egregious affront to reproductive rights that women in North Dakota have to worry about. State lawmakers are also considering an even more radical “personhood” measure that would outlaw abortion altogether, as well as some forms of contraception. And, despite the fact that there’s just one abortion clinic left in the state, anti-choice Republicans are attempting to advance legislation that would force it to close its doors. [Source; emphasis added]

Personhood. Putting aside the “no abortion” thinking for a moment, let’s just look at the matter of “personhood” for a fetus at the age of North Dakota’s argument: Is a fetus viable, can it survive as a person, before 24 weeks? If that’s the criteria, science says “No.” But we don’t listen to science in this debate, do we? We go back to Professor Gilbert’s quote:

“Whether these facts are enough to accord it personhood is a question influenced by opinion, philosophy and theology, rather than by science.[Source]

Opinion, philosophy, theology. NOT SCIENCE. Therefore, NOT LAW.

One can only assume, given that the GOP appears to not only be interested in banning abortion but limiting birth control, that the ultimate goal is to either mandate a society that has NO SEX or encourage the explosion of population. But since human beings are going to have sex; since even those human beings who aren’t supposed to have sex are having sex (priests, teachers with students, politicians with mistresses, a whole lotta men with prostitutes, unmarried everybody), and since sex can produce pregnancies, particularly if birth control is not allowed, it might be wiser for the GOP to consider funding for research on anti-sexual brainwashing, temporary vasectomy surgeries, or chastity harnesses for men, since women have long had the burden of preventing pregnancy and are now getting their butts, and vaginas and uteri, kicked by the GOP as a result.

Or maybe the GOP could fixate their attention less on sex and its ramifications and look to “save lives” lost to gun violence, unjustified wars, and the proliferation of hate and intolerance for gays, immigrants, the poor, blacks, Mexicans, anyone not like you, etc. None of that is restricted to weeks or months and every single person impacted has a heartbeat… “society’s marker for life.”


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