The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a piece of legislation about abortion that has been dubbed a “heartbeat bill” by a whopping 60 votes for and 35 votes against. The bill would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected with absolutely no exceptions. To describe this bill as “hardline” would be to woefully understate things.
Abortions needed due to rape and incest would not be allowed outside of this time frame. Does that seem right to you? While a fetal human heart may start beating as soon as four weeks, it usually cannot be detected by existing medical technology before six weeks. Assuming national trends more or less apply to Ohio, this would effectively criminalize 65.4 percent of all abortions.
If passed by the Ohio Senate, the bill would also shift the legal status of fetuses from “unborn human” to a person with full legal protections under Ohio law. In other words, the contents of a pregnant woman’s reproductive system would be deemed a life equal to yours or mine. The ramifications of such a change are nothing short of depraved.
This provision means that women who seek out and receive successful abortions after the allowed period would be subject to first-degree murder charges. Really. I’m not making this up. What makes this provision especially sinister is that Ohio is a state in which the barbaric and unconstitutional death penalty is still legal. In practice, a woman who receives an abortion at six weeks because she’s carrying her rapist’s child could be subject to murder under state law.
And while crazy laws with no chance of passing get proposed in state legislatures all the time, this “heartbeat bill” certainly does not fall into this category. For starters, the Ohio Senate — where the bill is now headed — is completely dominated by anti-abortion Republicans. Furthermore, Ohio governor-elect Mike DeWine, one of President Donald Trump’s lackeys, has promised to sign the bill should it be brought to his desk. It is far more likely than not that this bill becomes law.
As for abortion providers, doctors that administer an abortion post-fetal heartbeat would be guilty of a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. There have been some questions surrounding the constitutionality of this bill. Does it conflict with Roe v. Wade’s set legal precedent? Answers may vary, but make no mistake: The Republican majority in the Supreme Court will not strike down or oppose this bill should it become codified law.
Those pushing for this bill to pass call themselves “pro-lifers.” This is wrongheaded. If they were really pro-life, they would be pooling their time and resources into striking down the death penalty not just in Ohio, but on the federal level. How can you be “pro-life” and pro-death penalty?
Those who subscribe to this twisted way of thinking may claim that they are opposed to the taking of innocent life and that certain criminals do not deserve to live. This may seem reasonable on its surface, but, upon further investigation, this argument proves to be a fallacious one. For starters, studies reviewing exonerations and post-mortem pardons have found that at least 4 percent of death row inmates are innocent.
So long as our justice system is operated by fallible people, error in convictions will exist. Should we do what we can to reduce judicial error? Of course. However, as long as our system of law and order is imperfect, drastic and irreversible, capital punishment is simply unjustifiable.
The second part of the aforementioned argument is based on an incorrect premise. Life is a constitutionally enshrined right, not a privilege. Therefore, one does not have to “deserve” life, as it is an inalienable right. To ignore this is to rip out the foundation of our entire code of laws. This would be unwise at best, and wretched and rogue at worst.
Self-avowed Republican “pro-life” advocates also tend to support endless war which, of course, leads to the brutalization and destruction of the lives of so many. They also fall in line with a party that has waged a seemingly never-ending crusade against America’s already embarrassingly bounded social safety net. In other words, they may want you to be born, but are not too concerned with what happens afterwards.
It is precisely this that so limits the appeal of the “pro-life” movement. While half of Americans identify with the “pro-life” stance in regards to abortion, so many of them simply cannot sign on to what this movement has become. The wildly hardline approach to the issue exhibited by this “heartbeat bill” is not only alienating, it’s evil. The frothing-at-the-mouth bloodlust for women who get abortions, as exhibited in this piece of legislation, is even causing people who find abortion to be largely immoral to see the “pro-life” movement as adversaries.
Pro-choice advocates often label those on the other side of the issue as anti-women. While this is certainly not the case for all, it is not wholly unjustified either. This bill proves that. The sweeping language of the bill makes it unclear whether or not women who miscarry would be legally allowed to get surgical procedures to prevent infections and other potential complications.
The fact of the matter is that the movement is not “pro-life,” it’s just anti-abortion. I feel comfortable calling myself pro-life, because I am consistent. 45,000 Americans die every year for lack of ability to afford healthcare — I’m against that. Our country, shamefully, has been at war for 225 years out of its 242-year existence — I’m against that.
What I am trying to say is that the pro-life worldview should be just that: a worldview. “Pro-life” should be a praise only afforded to those who exhibit that stance across the board. Being pro-life, truly pro-life, is the only way forward for a nation that aspires to justice and morality.
Elias Khoury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.