Rep. Steve King of Iowa introduced one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills to Congress on Tuesday. In addition to banning abortions from the moment a fetus' heartbeat becomes detectable, which typically occurs at the six-week mark, a point at which most women have yet to realize that they're pregnant, this new "heartbeat bill" doesn't exclude rape or incest victims from those not permitted to get abortions — and that's terrifying.
Unlike many bills regarding abortion, King's proposal isn't limited to one state — if approved, it would be a nationwide measure. While the bill states that a mother "may not be prosecuted" in the event of getting an unlawful abortion, doctors who perform these medical procedures "shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both."
The section detailing the consequences for abortion doctors then goes on to list the only instances in which a practitioner would not be penalized for terminating a pregnancy with the presence of a fetus' heartbeat:
This subsection does not apply to an abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including psychological or emotional conditions.
The absence of the terms "rape" and "incest" provide an unacceptable room for interpretation regarding the exceptions named, particularly "physical injury." This would allow legislators to force a woman who was raped but has no visible physical injuries to give birth. The additional classification of "psychological" and "emotional" conditions as not valid would also eliminate a rape or incest victim's internal trauma as a legal argument for abortion.
The state of Ohio passed a similar "heartbeat bill" in December. However, even that proposed legislature, which was considered to be the most extreme anti-abortion proposal in the country at the time, included exceptions for cases or rape, incest, and life-endangerment. That bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. John Kasich, who argued that it went against the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. He went on to sign a 20-week abortion ban instead.
While it's unlikely that King's bill will become the law of the land, it's concerning that such a measure has even a small chance, given the fact that all three branches of government are currently in the hands of Republicans who mostly oppose abortion. This new bill is the latest attempt to attack women's healthcare.