Why I Think ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Bills Are Wrong

Following last week’s anti-abortion side-show on Capitol Hill, the issue of mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions is making headlines once again. Proponents of these ‘fetal heartbeat’ measures argue that ultrasounds help make the idea of pregnancy more serious or ‘real’ for pregnant women. But how stupid do you have to think women are to believe they’re not aware of what’s growing inside of them without seeing a picture of it?

Earlier this month, Republican Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann introduced a bill, the “Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,” that would require all pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound procedure before they could legally consent to having an abortion. During the ultrasound, doctors would be required to make the fetal heartbeat both visible and audible, and describe the ultrasound image. If a woman is only 4-5 weeks pregnant, regular ultrasounds can’t pick up the heartbeat, so a ‘transvaginal ultrasound‘ (which involves placing a probe in the vagina) would have to be performed.

To gain support for the bill, a coalition of anti-abortion groups performed live ultrasounds on pregnant women from a stage in the Congressional Auditorium last Thursday (a “fetus testifying” before a Congressional committee, as Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann put it). While that’s all well and good from a spectacle perspective, I feel fairly confident that most members of Congress are aware of the concepts of ultrasounds, I’m not sure how live ultrasound performance adds anything to a Congressional debate of the issue (lawmakers apparently also felt there were better uses of their time, too—only four showed up). The event served as a kickoff for Voices From the Womb tour, which now plans to bring it’s traveling fetus-viewing party to “schools, churches, state capitals, parks and legislative hearings” around the United States.

Meanwhile, a coalition of anti-abortion groups is pushing legislation in all 50 states that would require women see and hear the fetal heartbeat before having an abortion. It’s backed by National Right to Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council Action.

Ultrasounds before abortions are medically unnecessary, Nancy Stanwood, an obstetrician and board member of the health advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, told the Huffington Post.

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    • Mary

      In latin, Fetus means “Little One”

      ripping the arms and legs off a tiny little one is hardly blissfull, wouldnt you agree?

    • Steph

      Preach it! Thank you for understanding and articulating just how disgusting these types of laws are.

    • jack

      Mary, you might want to check the etymology of that word again.

      In any case, what does the etymology of the word ‘fetus’ have to do with the nature of abortion?

    • Alex

      Full disclosure, I’m pro-choice. But my main objection to this bill doesn’t have anything to do with how it manipulates women. If you read the bill which you can find on Michelle Bachman’s website, it explicitly says that the woman can close her eyes and ears if she so wishes. So I’m not sure how much of an effect this bill will have.

      What I do object to is that no one seems to be talking about who is going to pay for the cost of the ultrasound? An ultrasound tends to cost around $200 according to Parenting Magazine, while abortions cost about $400 according to Guttmacher Institute. If an ultrasound was to be included in the cost of the procedure that would be a 50% increase in abortion prices over night. While that is insignificant to the total cost of raising a child, that may be enough to scare away women who think that the initial cost of an abortion is too expensive. If someone is thinking that increasing costs of an abortion is a good pro-life strategy, remember that a women who cannot afford a one-time payment of $600 is probably not going to be able to provide for her child.

      The other option is the government pays for it. There are 1.2 million abortions performed annually in America. That means the federal government would be liable for at least an additional $240 million annually. That doesn’t even include the women who decide to keep the baby.

      To summarize, I’m against a bill that will cost either individuals or the government $240 million annually for something that they don’t actually need.

    • Emily

      I’ve always been on the fence about this issue until I had my son. In fact, I found myself in the position to make the decision at age 17. Fortunately, by chance my appointment was delayed, and I experienced a miscarriage before I could reschedule. To say all women understand what being pregnant means is not fully true. At 17 I thought I understood too – and I did for the most part, but what I didn’t understand was the emotions behind it (since I had never been pregnant before). I think it’s a fair assumption that the majority of women who choose to abort are not already parents – and there is a reason for that. Now (at 24) I have been with my husband for 6 years and I have a healthy 2 year old boy, and I FULLY understand pregnancy. I’m also a nurse, so I see the ignorance regarding prevention and consequences of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. To add to this, I also have a beautiful step daughter who is almost 10. Had my husband and her mother been able to choose to abort in high school like I was, they probably would have. But after several years of financial and emotional struggles on both ends, we all have an amazing young girl who is the entire reason I ever decided I wanted to become a mother. Both say they would have gone through it all over again regardless of the love for our daughter for who she is today. I don’t believe the government should be able to tell people what to do, but we also have to remember that abortion is not a natural right (food, water, shelter, etc). If the laws weren’t in place to allow abortion, women would find other means to prevent pregnancy. I have talked to too many young women that say “or if all else fails, I could always just abort” when discussing unplanned pregnancy during their appointments. It’s so easy to say that until you’re holding a positive pregnancy test, and by then it’s too late – it isn’t until then that many women feel the torn emotions that come along with the decision. For those that choose to go through with it, many experience guilt and moral regret for years or longer. It’s a big decision, and I believe it shouldn’t be so readily available. There needs to be more prevention – better and more access to birth control. Many uninsured women get pregnant because they can’t afford their annual pap smears to get their birth control. I don’t think the government should be responsible for that, but maybe find better methods of prevention other than hormones that could have deadly consequences with out annual cancer screenings. No one will ever convince me that a woman who has never experienced a full pregnancy FULLY understands it – the feeling of your baby’s hiccups, the first time you feel them move, everything. Until then, I believe it should be “highly recommended”. As far as cost goes, the doctor has to do an ultrasound before the procedure anyway to see what he’s doing. The only difference this law would make is to make the ultrasound visible/audible to the patient – therefor not costing anymore than it already does. Personally, I don’t like the idea of the government pushing the law, but I think it’s a great idea in the event the woman has never had children or the doctor feels they are ignorant to the details of what they are doing (how the baby ACTUALLY looks) – that it’s not just a blob of goo in there. I’m thankful that I miscarried before I could abort – I got lucky. I’m thankful because I WASN’T ready to be a mother, but I also wasn’t ready to carry around the feeling of guilt for the rest of my life and always wondering who they could have been but never will be because I was careless and chose the easy way out.