Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the GOP's latest pet project: The Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would effectively ban the procedure after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. If passed, it would basically criminalize abortion at six weeks—which, according to bill sponsor U.S. Representative Steve King of Iowa, is pretty much the point.
"If the heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected," King said during the hearing's opening statements. He also brought along a sonogram machine, and narrated the sounds of a fetus's heartbeat for dramatic flair.
The bill has 169 cosponsors to date—all Republican, save for one Dem from Minnesota—including nine of the ten House Republicans from North Carolina (we're going to assume Virginia Foxx missed the memo). It's unlikely to go very far. Even if it does pass the House, it probably won't clear the Senate—and if it did, it likely wouldn't pass constitutional muster. Heartbeat laws violate the protections established inRoe v. Wade, which stipulate that states can't ban abortions before fetal viability, which usually occurs around twenty-four weeks.
Symbolic though it may be, there's still a purpose behind this effort. After all, the more extreme the anti-abortion bill, the less extreme others may seem by comparison. That could galvanize anti-abortion lawmakers to introduce even more extreme legislation on the state level—including in North Carolina, which already has some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country.Abortion in N.C.
13: abortion providers in the state (8 independent clinics, 5 Planned Parenthood clinics)
114: crisis pregnancy centers in the state
29,960: abortions in 2014, a 3 percent increase from 2011
90: percentage of N.C. counties without an abortion provider
53: percentage of N.C. women who live ion those counties
72: hours a woman must wait after receiving state-mandated information before getting an abortion
1: transvaginal ultrasound a woman must receive before getting an abortion (the provider must also give the woman the option of seeing the ultrasound image)
20: weeks after a woman's last menstrual cycle after which most abortions are banned.
Abortion in the U.S.
926,000: abortions in the U.S. in 2014
75: percentage of women having an abortion who were economically disadvantaged
18: percentage of U.S. pregnancies that ended in abortion in 2011
92: percentage of abortions performed at 13 seeks or less of gestation
1.3: percentage of abortions that occur after 20 weeks
8.9 per 1 million: deaths following an abortion performed after 20 weeks
1 per 1 million: deaths following an abortion at 8 or fewer weeks
1: percentage of abortions performed in the third trimester