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New Front in the War on Women

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The Latest Extreme Anti-Abortion Trend

A record number of new abortion restrictions — 135 in all — were put in place during 2011 and 2012. The GOP nominated someone who has advocated for so-called “personhood” measures and co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape as their vice presidential candidate. Republican senatorial candidates made highly offensive and inexplicable comments about rape. All of this and the numerous other assaults on women’s health help explain why the 2012 election featured a historic gender gap.

Now Republicans are starting off 2013 with another major anti-abortion push in the states. This time the push is around so-called “fetal heartbeat” bills — bills that attempt to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This means abortion could be banned after just six weeks, which is before many women even know they are pregnant.

ThinkProgress’ Tara Culp-Ressler rounds up just the latest unconstitutional effort to restrict access to abortion:

– OHIO: Anti-choice lawmakers in Ohio first advanced a heartbeat bill in 2011. After the measure was stalled in the state senate for over a year, abortion opponents pressured the legislature to take up the issue again during their lame duck session after the 2012 elections. But ultimately, the bill didn’t come up for a vote because the state Senate leader, Tom Niehaus (R-OH), acknowledged it was too controversial even among abortion opponents. Niehaus said he wanted to wait until lawmakers anti-choice communityreached consensus on the measure — which means it could be back on the agenda sometime this year.

– MISSISSIPPI: About a week into the new year, GOP lawmakers in Mississippifiled a fetal heartbeat bill virtually identical to the one that failed to make it out of committee during the state’s last legislative session. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has already made it clear that he would sign such a bill if it ever reaches his desk. At a private anti-abortion event at the beginning of January, the governor confirmed that he supports banning abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. “It would tell that mother, ‘Your child has a heartbeat,’” Bryant said.

– WYOMING: About two weeks ago, state Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R) introduced a measure to supersede the medical definition of viability. Current state law says abortions are prohibited after a fetus has “reached viability,” and Kroeker sought to replace those words with “a detectable fetal heartbeat.” The Republican lawmaker said the idea for his heartbeat bill just came to him one day because “it became clear that if a baby had a heartbeat, that seemed simple to me that it’s wrong to kill it.” On Monday, a House panel struck down Kroeker’s bill because it was too medically vague. But if Ohio and Mississippi are any indication, this likely won’t be the last time that fetal heartbeat legislation shows up in Wyoming.

– ARKANSAS: Republicans in Arkansas also hopped on the fetal heartbeat train this week, but they went a step further — state Sen. Jason Rapert’s (R) proposed heartbeat bill would prosecute the doctors who perform abortionsafter the arbitrary cut-off with a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. And thanks to the strong Republican majorities in Arkansas’ legislature, this piece of legislation has a good chance of advancing. It easily passed out of committee on Wednesday and is now headed to the state Senate, where 19 of the chamber’s total 35 members have already signed onto it as co-sponsors.

– NORTH DAKOTA: Like Arkansas, the anti-choice politicians in North Dakota want to prosecute the doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — and their heartbeat ban was part of the “flurry” of anti-abortion bills that lawmakers rushed to introduce around last week’s Roe v. Wade anniversary. A House committee is currently considering the measure, along with an even more radical “personhood” proposal. North Dakota has already imposed some the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation, and women’s health advocates in the state warn that the passage of these new bills “would be tantamount to banning abortion” altogether.

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