(West Memphis, AR) The Arkansas state senate passed a bill Thursday, banning abortions when a heartbeat can be detected.
The “Heartbeat Protection Act” will now have to pass the state house, before being signed by the governor. Even if the governor vetoes the bill, the state senate most likely has the votes to override the veto.
If it becomes law, it would be one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the nation. Ohio lawmakers considered a similar bill in 2011, but it failed in the state senate over concerns of lawsuits.
The bill states that a person authorized to perform abortions in Arkansas must first perform a test to detect whether the fetus has a heartbeat.
Medical professionals believe that can be as early as 22 days after conception, or about six weeks.
If a heartbeat is detected, the bill requires the person performing the test to inform the pregnant woman in writing. The person also has to put in writing the statistical probability of bringing that baby to term.
Critics say the procedure to test for a heartbeat at six weeks is a vaginal ultrasound, which is considered invasive. Opponents also say many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks, let alone be able to find out if there are health complications.
The bill makes exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
“This is historic,” said Jerry Cox, of the Family Council. “There was a time when a lot of lawmakers did not even want to talk about life and abortion, much less vote on it. These bills are some of the best pieces of pro-life legislation in the nation, and today they all got positive votes.”
Senator Keith Ingram, from West Memphis, voted against the bill. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Barry Chase, the president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis, said more women from Arkansas may drive to Tennessee to get abortions if the law passes. But Chase does not believe the law will hold up.
“This law will never stand against the Roe v Wade decision. What it will be is costly for the citizens of Arkansas, to proceed with the legal aspects,” Chase said.
He said that this bill invades women’s privacy to make choices for their own bodies.
“This is an awful overreach of old white men trying to tell young women how they should lead their lives,” he said.
Some women in Arkansas told News Channel 3 they personally would never get an abortion.
“I’m against abortion for personal reasons. It’s against my religion,” said Tosha Tucker.
Earlene Allen said, “I think everyone deserves a chance. You never know how a person would turn out to be. I mean, you’re destroying people’s lives before you even give them a chance.”
But that’s where the commonality ends. While Tucker believes it’s right for the state legislature to create this law, Allen believes it’s a personal choice.“I don’t think the government should have anything to do with it. My opinion,” Allen said.
Two other abortion bills passed additional hurdles Thursday.
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee passed a bill banning most abortions starting the twentieth week of pregnancy, based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point.
The committee also approved legislation that would prohibit most abortion coverage offered by Arkansas insurers under the federal health care overhaul.