(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would effectively ban all abortions after the fetus has a detectable heartbeat.
The Heartbeat Protection Act would protect the unborn whose hearts begin to beat at 21 days. Parents can typically hear the heart beating within six weeks of gestation. If passed, the law would send doctors to prison for up to five years for performing an abortion after this time.
Championed by activist Janet Porter, who sat in the front row during the hearing, the bill is co-sponsored by 169 U.S. Representatives — more than enough to pass the bill if it is brought to the floor.
“To deny the unborn child’s heartbeat is to deny science,” Porter said. “To ignore it is heartless.”
Republicans invited a pregnant woman to the floor during the hearing so that her unborn child could “testify,” showing a sonogram taken that morning.
“I’ve never heard a more eloquent testimony than that little baby up on the screen,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona.
Opponents of the proposed bill claim it is unconstitutional, claiming Roe v. Wade prohibits laws that would ban abortions performed before “fetal viability,” which is around 24 weeks of gestation. Each time “heartbeat” bills have passed state legislatures, federal judges have struck them down. Arkansas and North Dakota passed heartbeat bills, but federal courts blocked them from being implemented. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, allowing the lower courts’ rulings to stay in place.
The Heartbeat Protection Act’s sponsor, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said the courts are changing under President Trump, giving him reason to believe the bill could stand.
“It is important that Congress passes such a strong pro-life bill now,” he said, “because President Trump will hopefully appoint one or two more justices to the Supreme Court, making this a profound moment in the pro-life movement. President Trump is actively changing the makeup of our judicial system with strong, conservative nominees who would hear arguments about this bill while it is being challenged on the way to the Supreme Court.”
King said the Heartbeat Protection Act is necessarily constitutional because the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause protects “the life and liberty of Americans living in their mothers’ wombs.”
If the bill is passed, there will still be a small window in which babies can be aborted, but King said the Heartbeat Protection Act would “protect nearly every child from being aborted.”
“Once we protect babies whose heartbeats are detected, then we can go back and get the rest,” Porter said. “It’s a compromise bill. It’s a scientific solution upon which America can agree.”
The committee invited one pro-choice witness, Priscilla Smith of Yale Law School’s Program for the Study of Reproductive Justice, to testify. She said the Heartbeat Protection Act is dangerous and risks forcing women into back-alley abortions.
Porter said that despite pro-choice groups’ protests, support for the bill has been overwhelming. She said she believes the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will vote on it.
“If we can’t do this now, then who are we fooling?” she asked. “Who are we kidding about being pro-life? It’s time that we actually make good on those pro-life promises that we’ve been hearing about from all these leaders, all these representatives, all these senators, for literally decades.”