It should come as a surprise to approximately no one that I oppose HB 481, widely known as the “heartbeat bill.” There are myriad reasons why I believe it is a terrible piece of legislation, but I have also been active on the internet long enough to know that even the feistiest, most data-driven blog post won’t change a single mind on any issue. So instead, I will share my reply to the pro-life constituents who contacted me during the debate on HB 481, in which I tried to explain why, if they are pro-life, HB 481 will not in any way help them achieve their goal. Here’s an excerpt:
I spoke against this bill from the well on March 7, 2019, prior to my first vote against HB 481. I intend to vote no when the bill returns to the House for an Agree/Disagree vote on the Senate’s changes. [I voted no.]
I have had several conversations with my pro-life friends about my ardent opposition to HB 481. I neither expect, nor intend, to change anyone’s mind on the issue of abortion. I know that many in the pro-life community view abortion as an issue that is completely binary, and they are compelled to support any legislation that would limit abortions.
I hope to explain why, if you are pro-life, this is not the bill you’re looking for.
It is true that several states have passed fetal heartbeat laws similar to what is proposed in HB 481. It is also true that each of these laws has been overturned following a legal battle that cost these states hundreds of thousands of dollars. What’s more, these cases also result in the state – meaning you, the taxpayers – paying the legal fees of the plaintiffs. Usually, the plaintiffs in these cases are Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. For example, the state of South Dakota paid Planned Parenthood $623,000 for their legal fees incurred during their litigation with the state following the passage of two unconstitutional anti-abortion bills.
It is for this reason that a similar bill in Tennessee was actually opposed by Catholic Church leadership and the right to life movement. From the Bishop’s letter:
The “Heartbeat Bill” has been passed in various forms across the country and has been consistently struck down by state and federal courts alike for being unconstitutional. In these legal cases, a victory is handed to the pro-abortion plaintiffs and we must remember that every pro-abortion victory in the courts further strengthens the Roe v. Wade precedent and makes Roe that much more difficult to overturn. Furthermore, states that defend their own “Heartbeat Bills” must pay attorney’s fees to Planned Parenthood when Planned Parenthood sues that state and wins in court. North Dakota is reported as being court ordered to pay $241,000 in attorney’s fees to Planned Parenthood. Similarly, Arkansas was ordered to pay $121,689 in attorney’s fees to the pro-abortion plaintiffs when Arkansas lost its case.
Given the field of legal realities that we must consider, we believe it would not be prudent to support the “Heartbeat Bill” knowing the certainty of its overturning when challenged, in addition to the court ordered fees that would be paid to the pro-abortion plaintiffs. Instances like these remind us that we must be prudent and support other pro-life pieces of pro-life legislation that stand a better chance of being upheld in the courts and, possibly, become the vehicle that forces the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe once and for all.
There are several other troubling components to HB 481. The bill would permit abortion in the case of rape or incest, but only if the assault survivor filed a police report against their attacker. Every child advocate I spoke to on this issue told me that in the case of incest, it is highly unlikely that a girl will be able to file charges against her abuser. Furthermore – and this should be of concern to all who are concerned with how accusations of sexual assaults are handled on our college campuses – we should anticipate an increase in the accusations of rape by young women who may seek any avenue to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Not to mention the various other aspects of the bill that are, to be fair, pretty out there, including including embryos and fetuses in the census count and allowing them to receive income tax exemptions.
Again, I do not intend in any way to try and change anyone’s mind on the issue of abortion. But I exhort every pro-life person reading this to understand how this bill will not, in any way, further the cause of pro-life advocacy.