A Kentucky legislator introduced a bill to ban doctors from aborting babies with detectable heartbeats, according to The Hill. Physicians who violate the proposed ban could be charged with a Class D felony and face up to five years in prison.
The measure would require doctors to examine unborn children for a heartbeat before performing abortions. If a fetus presents a heartbeat, a physician could only proceed with the abortion to avert a medical emergency.
Kentucky state representative Robert Goforth (R) prefiled the bill earlier in December for Kentucky’s 2019 legislative session.
“My proposal recognizes that everyone has a right to life,” Goforth explained. “My personal belief is that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. A heartbeat proves that there’s life that deserves protection under law–if a heart is beating, a baby needs to be protected and given an opportunity to live.”
Goforth noted that his bill represents a landmark in the history of Kentucky’s pro-life movement. “This is the most pro-life piece of legislation that has ever been filed in the Kentucky Legislature,” he said. Goforth recognizes that the measure may face judicial hurdles if it becomes law, but nevertheless deems his efforts worthwhile.
“I look forward to the day our laws and our court system give unborn children the legal right to life that they deserve so they can grow and live happy and productive lives,” he stated.
January 8th marks the start of the Kentucky General Assembly’s next session, during which legislators will consider Goforth’s bill.
Ohio and Iowa have already debated similar heartbeat legislation this year. In both states, the measures have not yet arrived at the governor’s desk.
More American women are choosing life for their children than ever before, according to the latest government data on abortion.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the US abortion rate fell 26% between 2006 and 2015 to reach an all-time low. Further, the national abortion ratio–which weighs abortions against live births–also declined to record lows. In 2005, 233 abortions occurred for every 1,000 live births. In 2015, officials documented only 188 abortions per 1,000 live births.
According to other research, America’s abortion rate has fallen concurrently with global abortion rates. Across Europe and North America, infanticide has become gradually less prevalent in developed nations. The trend extends back to the 1990s: during that decade, 45 out of every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 had an abortion. By the early 2010s, just 27 out of every 1,000 women obtained abortions in developed countries.
To explain the international decline in abortion rates, researchers point to several factors, including improved access to contraceptives, new pro-life legislation, and changing attitudes among millenials.
More restrictive abortion laws, for example, have reduced the incidence of infanticide: Globally, 39% of women of reproductive age cannot terminate their pregnancies, because no abortion clinics operate nearby.
Further, during the 1970s and 1980s, older pro-lifers in the United States significantly outnumbered their younger counterparts. Today, however, young people in the US express greater support for pro-life measures than older generations.
A 2017 Quinnipiac poll revealed that Americans aged 18 to 34 were more likely than older citizens to favor a 20-week abortion ban. Rasmussen’s 2013 study on the same topic reached similar conclusions.
To view graphical representations of the international decline in abortion rates, visit Vox news’ article on the subject.
Pro-life activists and public officials made significant legislative gains in 2018, reports the Huffington Post. Lawmakers passed nearly two dozen new protections for unborn children last year, including an unprecedented number of comprehensive abortion restrictions.
Iowa, for example, banned abortions of unborn children with detectable cardiac activity. Doctors frequently detect fetal heartbeats after just six weeks of gestation. Mississippi, meanwhile, voted to prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Both states have eclipsed a benchmark previously established by pro-life activists: to ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.
Pro-life lawmakers’ goals have become more ambitious, notes Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank. “In some states that already have so many restrictions on the books, all that is left is to ban abortion . . . the next big leap is an early abortion ban,” Nash said.
State legislators also moved to protect unborn children from discrimination based on disability. In late 2017, Ohio legislators prohibited doctors from aborting an unborn child simply because the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The bill belongs to a broad family of legislative proposals which seek to protect unborn children from unequal treatment based on race, gender, or physical abnormality.
Further, pro-life activists successfully campaigned to ban abortion by “dilation and evacuation” in Kentucky. Such abortions dismember unborn children in order to remove them from the mother’s womb. Nash notes that Kentucky’s law would prohibit most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Finally, pro-life litigators sought to challenge permissive abortion statues in the courts. The appointments of conservative justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have encouraged states to challenge the Supreme Court’s longstanding Roe v. Wade decision. “You have states across the country that are essentially lining up with prefiled abortion bans,” Nash said.
“If a state passes an abortion ban, it will be challenged and work its way through the system and can have impact[s] across the entire country. Because if the Supreme Court overturns or undermines Roe v. Wade, that applies to every state, not just the state with the case.”
States such as Oregon with no laws protecting the unborn, however, would not see any legal changes if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
Italy has experienced a steady decline in abortion rates, even though the country legalized abortion four decades ago, reports PRI. The reason? Doctors have become increasingly pro-life, and refuse to perform even legal abortions. Under Italy’s abortion law, gynecologists may register as “conscientious objectors,” and refuse to provide abortions without penalty.
“For example, in the public University of Rome, we have more than 60 doctors but only two provide abortion,” noted Silvana Agatone, a gynecologist who practices in Rome. “In 2005, the percentage of gynecologists that didn’t provide abortions was about 59 percent. Now [it is] 70 percent. And it’s growing every year.”
Nurses and anesthesiologists may also obtain conscientious objector status: In some regions of Italy, 90 percent of all care providers refuse to terminate pregnancies. Thus, many women who seek abortions at public hospitals cannot find any physician willing to end the life of their unborn children.
Agatone believes Italy’s pro-life movement has burgeoned because conservative political factions, such as the League and the Five Star Movement, have enjoyed recent success. Both the League and the Five Star Movement seek an outright ban on abortions.
Given the public’s support for pro-life measures, the ban may someday receive significant support in Parliament.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment, reports the Texas Tribune.
In 2017, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 8, which prohibited doctors from performing abortions via “dilation and evacuation”–grasping and extracting fetal tissue with surgical instruments. After a federal judge blocked the measure, Texas sought to reinstate the bill before the Fifth Circuit Court.
Justices on the court heard arguments from Texas attorneys and litigators from pro-abortion groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. Texas assistant solicitor general Heather Gebelin Hacker deemed dilation and evacuation a “barbaric” procedure. “It’s illegal to kill an animal that way in Texas, we wouldn’t execute a murderer that way, and notably the abortion providers don’t tell women that that’s what the procedure entails,” Hacker stated.
Hacker noted that less harmful abortion methods, such as potassium chloride injections, have a proven safety record and are currently available at abortion clinics. Thus, Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment would not affect abortion access in the state.
Center for Reproductive Rights counsel Janet Crepps, meanwhile, responded that the ban was “invasive” and “medically unnecessary,” and that potassium chloride injections increase patients’ risk for complications. “Just the idea the state thinks that’s what’s within its power is contrary to the whole idea that women have a right to autonomy, dignity,” Crepps added.
Judges on the Fifth Circuit Court asked litigators to interpret Alabama’s dilation and evacuation ban, which was struck down by the Eleventh circuit Court of Appeals. The justices also sought clarification on potassium chloride injections.
Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller told reporters after the hearing that alternative abortion methods, such as injections, are “absolutely not the standard of care.” Referring to Alabama’s failed dilation and evacuation law, Miller stated, “I really lean on the fact that a [dilation and evacuation] ban hasn’t withstood these kind of proceedings to date.”
Emily Horne, a senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, expressed a different view. “It comes down to we’re really talking about a modest restriction on a very brutal abortion procedure while the child is alive,” she said.
Observers expect the court to issue its ruling in the next few months.
In spontaneous remarks to thousands of listeners at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned abortion by comparing the practice to a targeted assassination.
“Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” the Pope asked. “You cannot, it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. [Abortion] is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem,” he stated.
Conservative Catholics had criticized the Pope for his reticence on abortion and other controversial topics. Observers considered Pope Francis’ latest pro-life remarks to be “some of his toughest to date.”
The Pope delivered his address at St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience, an occasion which attracted tens of thousands of spectators. Many in the crowd responded favorably to Pope Francis’ statements on abortion.
“I ask you: Is it right to ‘take out’ a human life to solve a problem? What do you think? Is it right? Is it right or not?” he asked. “No,” shouted the crowd.
“[H]ow can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life that is germinating be therapeutic, civilized or even simply human?” the Pope continued.
Catholic doctrine holds that life begins at conception and terminates at natural death. In previous interviews with news agencies, the Pope had focused his remarks on social issues such as inequality and immigration, stating that the Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with the debate surrounding abortion and traditional marriage. He had never questioned the Church’s teaching on abortion, however, and his latest comments confirm his commitment to pro-life values.