Lawmakers in Mississippi have resurrected the so-called “heartbeat” bill, a measure which “equates abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat to child homicide.” A physician who performs an abortion where a fetal heartbeat is present “could face the maximum 30 years” and some women would be required to undergo “a transvaginal ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.”
Under the measure, pregnancies that result from “rape or incest or that would endanger the life of the mother” are exempt from the requirement, but those that would pose health risks are not:
Rep. Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, presented several scenarios where he said the language of the bill would be too restrictive. For example, he said, no exception is made for a situation in which a woman is pregnant with twins and a doctor determines both fetuses will not survive, and one must be aborted for the other to live.
“It makes reference to the life of the mother, but it has no exception for the health of the mother – both physical and mental health,” Blackmon said.
Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, presented a scenario where doctors have determined a fetus will not survive long enough to come to term, but if the woman does not abort the child, she will become infertile. “You think that’s what God wants?” Brown asked.
The bill passed the Mississippi House on Tuesday, but faces an uphill climb in the Senate, where it died in committee last week. The heartbeat can often be detected as early as “six to seven weeks,” before a women even knows she is pregnant and is likely unconstitutional, flouting the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that forbids states from banning abortions until the fetus is viable, which is generally around 22 to 24 weeks.
Last week, lawmakers approved a bill requiring doctors performing abortions “to be a board-certified OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital,” a measure that could significantly hamper or even shut down the state’s sole abortion provider.