2011 and 2012 were both record-breaking years for new abortion restrictions, and abortion opponents are aren’t showing signs of letting up this year. The “personhood” movement to endow zygotes with the full rights of U.S. citizens, effectively outlawing all abortions and even some forms of contraception, has largely been a failure — but that doesn’t mean anti-choice lawmakers are giving up their quest to redefine the medical terms of pregnancy. The push for “fetal heartbeat” bans is the next anti-choice movement to watch.
Fetal heartbeat measures seek to outlaw abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which can occur as early as six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant — in direct contradiction to Roe v. Wade, which guarantees women’s right to an abortion until the point of viability at about 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy. Despite the fact that heartbeat bills are much more extreme than the 20-week abortion bans that are already floundering in court for running afoul of Roe v. Wade, anti-choice lawmakers in at least five states are flirting with this type of legislation.
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