Oklahoma House lawmakers approved a pro-life heartbeat bill by a strong majority Tuesday.
If enforced, the bill would prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed if the mother’s life is at risk or a doctor certifies in writing that her pregnancy is “medically futile.”
“This bill is about protecting the most vulnerable – the unborn child,” Russ said earlier this year. “Hearing a heartbeat confirms what everyone already knows: These are living babies, not clumps of tissue that feel nothing. This is one among a series of measures designed to protect and save unborn lives.”
During the debate Tuesday, Russ defended his bill against attacks because it does not allow unborn babies to be killed if their mothers are victims of rape or incest.
“In those situations where there is a horrible, horrible, heinous act of rape, taking the life of the baby does not help the emotional outcome of the mom. Generally, it makes it worse,” Russ said, Public Radio Tulsa reports.
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Many women have confirmed this to be true. Lesley McAskie, who was raped at 13, said she eventually healed from the sexual abuse that she suffered, but she “never got over” her abortion.
The pro-life bill now moves to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.
The American Civil Liberties Union warned that it will sue the state if the legislation passes.
Polls suggest many Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.
A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but most have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups. South Carolina passed a heartbeat law earlier this month, but a judge blocked the state from enforcing it less than 24 hours later.
Other states with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. However, all of the states have been blocked from enforcing them by court orders.
Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.
Though the high court currently has a conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by a Republican president, has sided with the liberal justices on a number of occasions.
In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.