The adoption in Arkansas of an abortion ban that forbids the procedure from being done at 12 weeks of pregnancy is encouraging pro-life advocates who are pushing similar measures in other states.
So-called fetal heartbeat laws – named because a heartbeat can be typically detected at about 12 weeks of pregnancy – are being considered by legislatures in Ohio, Kansas, and North Dakota, reports The New York Times
Proponents say they believe the laws will be passed in those three states, even though legal experts don't believe they'll stand up to federal court scrutiny.
Similar proposals have also been floated in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Wyoming, the Times noted.
Bryan Fischer, a spokesman at the conservative, Mississippi-based American Family Association, told the Times that the Arkansas measure was "a milestone" that other states will be looking to.
Although similar bills under consideration don't set the limit at 12 weeks, they do specify that abortions should be banned from the time a doctor can detect a heartbeat. In some cases, this could mean abortions would be banned even earlier than 12 weeks, which supporters say would save more lives.
Evangelical groups, such as the Family Research Council, are determined to back fetal-heartbeat laws, but more traditional pro-life groups, such as the National Right to Life and the Catholic Church, are concerned that they will be overturned by the courts. The Supreme Court has determined that women have the right to an abortion until the time when a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is generally at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The more mainstream pro-life groups prefer to stick to a strategy that already has resulted in state laws narrowing abortion rights, including requiring women to undergo sonograms first and imposing longer waiting periods. They believe the delays allow time for a woman to change her decision or put off the procedure until it's too late for it to be performed.
But Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican who designed the fetal heartbeat law in his state, hopes one day to completely ban abortion from the time of conception. But for now, he told the Times, "We've done our duty."
"Arkansas has made a significant statement," he said, adding, "Hopefully, we can awaken the nation."
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