By Hannah Tomlinson, DEPUTY COUNSEL –
On Tuesday, the Alabama House passed a bill that would ban abortions the instant a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat. That translates to a ban on abortion as early as 5 weeks after conception, when the most sensitive ultrasound is capable of picking up on that tiny little ticker.
Why is the presence of a heartbeat an important factor in limiting abortion? Click around and you’ll find many reasons. I have three.
I’ll elaborate, but first let me share some other important numbers for context, because timing is a key issue in this debate. The earliest a woman can learn she is pregnant is 6 days after conception, which is when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus and starts producing the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). That hormone is the positive trigger for over-the-counter pregnancy tests. If a woman is not on an eager lookout for her pregnancy, she may not be tipped off to her growing baby bundle until after she skips a menstrual cycle. Her cycle can be as short as 21 days or as long as 35, with an average of 28 days, or 4 weeks. So the absolute earliest a doctor can hear a fetal heartbeat is week 5, and the average woman is already going to know that something is up by week 4.
Here are three reasons to support Alabama’s abortion restriction law:
1. The Heartbeat is unambiguous Evidence of life
The first reason why this approach is important is obvious: a heartbeat provides tangible evidence of life. A lawyer, judge or layman can all listen to the same pitter-patter of a young heart and agree the woman is not alone. Courts often deem as unconstitutional laws designed to regulate or restrict abortion because they are vague in definition or application, but in this case the presence of a heartbeat requires no arbitrary judgment on the part of medical professionals. Either they hear a heartbeat or they don’t, and if they do, there’s another little life to consider.
2. The Heartbeat is Amoral
Finding common ground in our beautiful melting pot is key to a law being not only passed, but embraced and supported by society. The fetal heartbeat may just be that common ground. The fetal heartbeat transcends much of what the abortion camps argue about, because its existence is not a moral question dependent on a philosophy, worldview, or even lifestyle choice. It simply demands acknowledgement of the existence of another player in the game. No moral judgment is required to identify life.
3. The Heartbeat bypasses Discrimination
Every woman has her own genetic makeup, her own back story, and her own set of circumstances that led her to an abortion clinic or crisis pregnancy center. When we use the fetal heartbeat as a measure for restricting abortion, her own human individuality naturally comes into play. The fetal heartbeat measure protects new life without regard for race, gender, religion, or creed, while remaining subject to each woman’s unique prenatal timetable.
Science has shown us that a unique human life begins at conception, and it’s time for our science-minded nation to recognize that simple truth. Until then, Alabama’s action is clearly a step in the right direction.
My best hope still remains. If Americans resolved to banish their fear of inconvenience, and dare to joyfully trust in the value and potential of every human being, the desire for abortion would simply disappear. We see glimpses of this as a new generation learns more about the miracle of life in the womb. Let’s hope!
Want to hear a fetal heartbeat? Click here!