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Total Abortion Ban Introduced in Congress

It's a version of the so-called "heartbeat bill" that Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed before signing a 20-week ban.
Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Yesterday, Iowa Congressman Steve King introduced a national version of the so-called "heartbeat bill" that recently failed in Ohio. The bill would ban abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. Women usually don't have their first prenatal visit until weeks 8 to 12, however, because the risk of miscarriage remains so high. Some women don't even know they're pregnant at 6 weeks so such legislation amounts to a total abortion ban. King's office confirmed to Rewire that HR 490 is the first national "heartbeat bill" ever introduced. Similar bills have been introduced in 17 states and approved in Arkansas and North Dakota before being struck down in federal court.


King said in a statement that he believes life begins at conception and added: "My legislation will require all physicians, before conducting an abortion, to detect the heartbeat of the unborn child. If a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected." The bill permits exceptions if the mother's life is in danger, but seemingly not for cases of rape or incest. Doctors who perform abortions in violation of the bill would be subject to fines and up to five years in prison.

Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed the bill then immediately signed a 20-week ban, which some said made him appear more moderate. It's possible that King is using the same strategy: He may not think the bill will actually pass but rather is using it as a vehicle to normalize the 20-week bans that have been introduced and passed recently.

But 20-week bans are still unconstitutional per Roe v Wade, which established women's right to abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, at about 24 weeks. It's unclear when the new bill will be up for a vote.