"Pro-Choice Clinic Escort" by Lorie Shaull / CC BY-SA 2.0

‘Heartbeat’ Bans: How We Got Here, and Where We’re Headed

Dec 28, 2018

By Imani Gandy and Brie Shea

On December 21, Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed the legislature’s attempt to become the fourth state to pass a law that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods—it wasn’t the state’s first try at passing such an extreme abortion restriction, and it won’t be the last. Here at Team Legal, we thought it would be a good idea to provide an overview of what these bans are, whether they’re constitutional, and why anti-choicers are so excited about them.

So what are these bans? The short answer is that they’re bullshit. The long answer is that they are bills that attempt to outlaw abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected.

You may be asking: When can a heartbeat be detected?

Aye. There’s the rub. That depends on how strict the heartbeat ban is. Some heartbeat ban bills—like the one Arkansas passed in 2013, and the one the Ohio legislature passed—require fetal heartbeat detection by way of abdominal ultrasound, which generally cannot detect fetal heartbeat until somewhere between nine and 12 weeks.

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