Many media commentators are warning readers about a new Ohio bill because it could prevent women from obtaining abortions before they know they’re pregnant. But in the process of doing so, they’re making a pro-life message go viral: Abortion stops a beating heart.
On Dec. 12, the Ohio Senate made national headlines for approving abortion legislation, known as the “heartbeat bill” or H.B. 258, which would ban the abortion of unborn babies with a detectable heartbeat. Republican Gov. John Kasich has promised to veto the bill – which resembles one he vetoed in 2016. But that didn’t keep the media, from NBC News to women’s site Refinery29, from worrying about the legislation.
NBC News’s headline acknowledged the “strict” bill and displayed a photo of a protester holding up a hanger, a symbol of illegal abortions. Reporter Elizabeth Chuck wrote Dec. 15 that the bill could ban abortions “as early as six weeks into a pregnancy” which is “before some women even know they are pregnant.”
Like Chuck, writer Sarah Stankorb for Glamour repeated Dec. 12 that abortion could be prohibited “as early as six weeks, when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. Because of that, she added, the “antiabortion bill doesn’t just have implications for women in the state—it’s a threat to women’s reproductive rights around the country.”
Stankorb also warned there were no exceptions for rape or incest, although she admitted (in parenthesis) that there was an exception if the mother’s health was at risk.
But neither she nor the other writers addressed that abortion might threaten a second person’s health – a baby’s life. Instead of pausing to consider that a fetus’s heartbeat signals a human life growing in every pregnancy, they worried that this information could be used to prevent abortion. They were distraught that abortion before a heartbeat might mean no abortion at all.
That same day, Refinery29 writer Andrea González-Ramírez echoed, as the rest did, that “At that point, most women don't even know they're pregnant.”
“Regardless, the bill is an extreme measure, and a threat to women's reproductive rights, for more than one reason,” Caroline Burke continued the trend for Bustle on Dec. 12. “First, many women don't even know that they're pregnant at six weeks.”
But, thanks to these media writers, many more women will now know that an unborn baby can show a heartbeat at six weeks. Regardless of whether the bill is signed into law, the coverage of it has informed women, including women who consume abortion-friendly media, of what abortion is. The fetus isn’t just a clump of cells or a “parasite,” and abortion isn’t like a cavity removal. Instead, it stops a beating heart. It ends a life.
That is the media’s unintentional pro-life message while defending abortion.
And a heartbeat isn’t all that an unborn baby might have at the six-week mark. MayoClinic.org details other developments at week six:
“Growth is rapid this week. Just four weeks after conception, the neural tube along your baby's back is closing. The baby's brain and spinal cord will develop from the neural tube. The heart and other organs also are starting to form.
"Structures necessary to the development of the eyes and ears develop. Small buds appear that will soon become arms. Your baby's body begins to take on a C-shaped curvature.”
And, perhaps, the coverage of Ohio’s abortion debates will do more than open eyes to an unborn baby’s formation. Another abortion ban bill, S.B. 145, is headed to Kasich’s desk, which would ban dismemberment abortion, or abortion by dilation and extraction. According to ReWire, the bill defines dismemberment abortion as the following:
“[…]with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, to dismember a living unborn child and extract the unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off. ‘Dismemberment abortion’ includes a dismemberment abortion during which a suction is used after the death of the unborn child to extract any remaining parts of the unborn child.”
That’s language the media and abortion supporters readily avoid when talking about abortion. But descriptions like these, along with acknowledgements of fetal heartbeats, might cause Americans to examine abortion further – and maybe even save a life.