Time Magazine Laments 'Brazen Campaign' for Requirement to Hear Fetal Heartbeat Before Abortion

An effort by pro-life activists to require women seeking abortions to first listen to their unborn baby's heartbeat is a "brazen campaign" by "anti-abortion" groups according to Time magazine.

In an October 17 article at the magazine's website, Adam Cohen described the "heartbeat bills" as pro-life groups' new "weapon of choice," a "frontal assault" on Roe v. Wade.

Throughout his story, the Yale Law School lecturer used loaded, combative language to describe the tactics of  "anti-abortion" groups and "abortion opponents." By contrast, pro-choicers are not "abortion advocates" but "abortion rights advocates" (emphasis mine):

Abortion opponents have a new weapon of choice: the “heartbeat bill.” A coalition of anti-abortion groups told the Associated Press last week last week that it was pushing to enact laws in all 50 states that would make women listen to a fetus’s heart beat before they could abort. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has introduced a similar federal bill, The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act, in Congress.

When the Supreme Court decided Roe, critics of abortion vowed to get it overturned. They have not succeeded in that. But they have managed to pass a wide array of laws — some upheld by the courts, others struck down — making access to abortion more difficult. The Supreme Court has ruled that states can impose some restrictions, such as 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent requirements, but has struck down others, such as laws forcing women to notify their spouses. The heartbeat laws are the latest effort in a decades-long campaign that — as conservatives gain strength at the state level—appears to be gaining ground.

Recently, abortion opponents have been pushing some tough new restrictions — and prompting lawsuits over whether they go too far. Five states — Indiana, Kansas, Alabama, Idaho, and Oklahoma — have adopted laws that ban almost all abortions after the five-month mark. Meanwhile, Ohio is considering enacting the most extreme anti-abortion law in the nation. Its House of Representatives has voted for a bill that would ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as six weeks. That is a frontal assault on Roe, which recognized a right to abortion until “viability,” the point — around the 22nd week — when a fetus can survive outside the womb.

The new heartbeat bills don’t go quite as far — they would simply require abortion providers to make the fetus’s heartbeat audible to a woman seeking an abortion. Supporters argue that making the woman listen to the heartbeat — or look at an ultrasound image of the fetus, as Bachmann’s bill also requires — is important for true “informed consent.” They also believe that women who are provided with this kind of information are less likely to end their pregnancies. According to Bachmann, a poll by Focus on the Family, a group opposed to abortion, found that when women who were undecided about whether to end a pregnancy were shown an ultrasound of the fetus, 78% did not have the abortion.

Abortion rights advocates, however, insist that the heartbeat bills are an attempt to interfere with women’s right to make private medical decisions. They argue that the state has no business trying to lobby patients about medical procedures, or to turn doctors into government mouthpieces.

How does requiring a patient to listen to a heartbeat making a doctor become a "government mouthpiece" and what's with the scare quotes around "viability"?

But wait, there's more, as Cohen described as "radical" moves to legally protect unborn children as persons under the law:

While challenges to heartbeat laws make their way through the courts, anti-abortion forces are working on new — and in some cases more radical — measures. Next month, Mississippi will vote on whether to add a “personhood amendment” to its state constitution that would declare that personhood begins at conception. If it passes — and a court does not block it — the amendment could ban all abortions in the state...

Maybe if Cohen recognized that pro-life activists are "unborn-child rights advocates," it wouldn't seem that extreme to him.

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Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters