Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill in the House banning abortions after a heartbeat has been detected. The bill, if it becomes law, would make it the strictest abortion law in the United States and critics are already decrying it.
The bill, HB 490, was passed in the House with a 73-29 vote. The measure severely punishes doctors who would go against the legislation by making it a class C felony for doctors who abort a baby with a heartbeat as defined by the bill and promises to revoke the licenses of doctors who go against it.
“This bill would make it unlawful for a physician to perform an abortion on a pregnant woman after a heartbeat has been detected from the unborn child in accordance with the applicable standards of medical care for determining heartbeats of unborn children,” explains a synopsis of the bill HB 490. “This bill would further require a physician to check for a detectable heartbeat prior to performing an abortion.”
The term “abortion” as defined by the bill does not include pregnancies terminated due to the unborn child having a “lethal anomaly” meaning it would die at childbirth or be stillborn. The bill also allows for the termination of ectopic pregnancies as well as others medically determined to be life-threatening for the mother.
Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project called the bill “blatantly” unconstitutional. A fetal heartbeat, say critics, can be detected as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy when many women don’t even realize they are pregnant.
Republican state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, who sponsored the bill, said it was needed to protect the lives of unborn children.
“If your heart is beating that means you are alive,” she explained during a recent committee hearing.
The bill, along with three other abortion restriction bills, now goes to the Senate, notes Reuters, which highlights that similar efforts in North Dakota and Arkansas have been blocked by courts pending lawsuits.
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