Note: This article contains frank discussion of abortion and reproductive healthcare.
I am not American, but it is with horror that I read today that Georgia’s governor signed into state law what is being called a heartbeat bill by the media: a law that prevents legal abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, or when a fetal heartbeat can potentially be detected. But I’m not calling it that, because as OB-GYN Dr Jennifer Gunter pointed out, calling it the “heartbeat bill” makes it seem like the embryo is more developed than it is, and leans into the anti-choice narrative on abortion. At six weeks an embryo is 8-10mm in size (probably slightly smaller than the size of the nail on your little finger), and the cardiac activity detected, if any, is in a vaginal ultrasound where a pulse like motion can sometimes be found in the fetal pole.
This is not a “Pro-Life” move, it is “Anti-Choice”. Its main target is women’s rights to access healthcare.
Note: I use the word “woman” in this article when discussing abortion rights, as it is predominately cisgender women who are in need of access to them. This blog recognises and supports all those who are in need of access to abortion services, such as trans-men and non-binary individuals. The right to choose should be available to all.
I have talked before about how birth control and hormonal medicine is critical healthcare for lots of women. Well, so is access to termination. It has been said many times before that restricting abortion services does not lower the amount of abortions, all it does is endanger the lives and livelihoods of the women seeking them. Women who are desperate to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason; social, financial, health, familial, will find a way if they have to. But without access to critical medical care, that way will be dangerous, uncontrolled, and fatality rates will soar.
Now, I’m not going to talk about all the medical reasons why six weeks is a ridiculous cut off point; I am not a doctor, and there will be people far more learned about sexual and reproductive health out there with plenty to say on the topic. The one thing I will say, many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. If their cycle is irregular, they might not have noticed a missed period, or will think they’re just a bit late, and wait to see if it appears soon. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most women find out they’re pregnant between the 4th and 7th week.
The reasons patients gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.Guttmacher Institute
The Guttmacher Institute delivers studies on abortion and contraception in the USA and provides insights into the people who access legal abortion services.
One can only hope that this bill, which will increase mortality rates of women in Georgia will be stopped by a federal judge, as the Supreme Court in America has affirmed: “a state cannot ban abortion before viability (the point at which a fetus can survive outside the uterus), and that any restriction on abortion after viability must contain exceptions to protect the life and health of the woman.” Clearly, Georgian lawmakers will try and define this bill as protecting the life and health of women, but the facts are clearly contrary to that.
1 in 4 U.S women will have an abortion by age 45.Guttmacher Institute
Legal opposition to abortion is rising in the US. In 2000, 13 states had at least four major types of abortion restrictions, qualifying them as “hostile” to abortion rights. This rose to 29 states by 2017. 58% of American women live in a state that is hostile to their reproductive rights. The problem, as Slate so concisely points out, is the more that America talks about this bill and it’s consequences, the more likely other infringements on abortion rights will be seen as acceptable compromises. Six states in America only have one legal abortion provider, which means that many women of low economic background will not be able to acquire medical care. This will affect minorities in America disproportionately. The fact that these infringements and debates are becoming so common, and the anti-choice movement so virulent again, shows that conservatives in America are determined to challenge Roe v. Wade (1974) in the very near future.
There is already strong opposition to this bill, with Planned Parenthood South East announcing today that they are launching a legal challenge.