There’s Nothing ‘New’ About Heartbeat Bans

Ohio is the latest state to join Mississippi and Kentucky in banning abortion at the point when an embryonic “heartbeat” can be detected — about one or two weeks after a missed period. And unless pressure on Georgia Governor Brian Kemp works, that state will be next to sign the ban.

With so many news stories popping up about these extremist abortion bills, it’s no wonder that the media is pointing to them as the “new” push to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the reality is that this has been happening for nearly a decade — only few people were paying attention.

The moment that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the state’s heartbeat ban into law capped an eight-year crusade to get this radical abortion bill into law — a trek that spanned two Republican governors, half a dozen introductions of the bill, the death of one of its primary backers, two vetoes and a total position reversal by the most powerful anti-abortion group in the state.

First introduced in 2011, the Ohio heartbeat ban was pushed by Janet Porter (who wasn’t even invited to the final bill signing) and adamantly backed by Ohio’s Dr. Jack Willke – the former head of National Right to Life and who was considered by many to be the father of the modern anti-abortion movement. It died repeatedly in the state house only to eventually make it to Republican Governor John Kasich, who twice vetoed the bill rather than sign it into law. Until 2019 the ban was never supported by Ohio Right to Life until just this last year, where the group reversed its original stance that the unconstitutional bill would inadvertently reaffirm Roe, claiming now the time is the “right time” for this bill.

Ohio’s winding path to a heartbeat ban’s passage is the most extreme tale of a bill that has existed for years, but it’s far from the only one. Even Mississippi, whose governor Phil Bryant signed a similar bill in March, already spent years introducing the same ban only to have it die repeatedly in the state house.

Mississippi’s first attempt to ban abortion at about four weeks post-fertilization was in 2012, and the bill died in a committee hearing when the chair said there was no reason to vote on something “so blatantly unconstitutional.” The next year it received support from Bryant himself, who praised it in a Pro-Life Mississippi luncheon.

“It would tell that mother, ‘Your child has a heartbeat,’ Bryant said at the event in 2013. “You can hear that heartbeat at five or six weeks now. Your child has such a dramatic opportunity to live, with a heartbeat.”

Kentucky was also introducing a heartbeat ban as early as 2013, though it never got any traction back then, and a Wyoming bill was blocked in committee in 2013, too.

Meanwhile, for all of the heartbeat bans that tried and failed to pass, two bills did actually end up signed into law. North Dakota’s 2013 heartbeat ban was quickly blocked by the courts and never did go into effect, despite the Eighth Circuit’s bid to convince the Supreme Court to consider reviewing the law and determining whether “heartbeat” could be a new way to define “viability.” That case officially ended when the Court rejected the challenge in 2015.

Arkansas also passed a “heartbeat” ban in 2013, although theirs was a slightly less strict version that would graciously allow a patient an abortion until 12 weeks gestation. Even with this change, the bill still failed to go into effect because it was clearly a ban on abortion prior to viability — that attempt was fully rejected by the Supreme Court in 2016.

Neither of those clear decisions stopped Iowa from also introducing and passing a heartbeat ban in 2018, however. In this case, the law was challenged at the state level, and the Iowa State Supreme Court rejected it as unconstitutional in January of 2019.

Heartbeat bans aren’t a “new” attack on Roe, but the continuation of a long crusade by the far right. The difference is we have a Supreme Court that believes Roe was wrongly decided and has little concern about precedent, making the time ripe for one of these bans to stick. Now, red states are rushing in the hopes that they can be the one to make it happen.

Photo credit: Robin Marty


Ellie L
Emma L9 days ago


Leo C
Leo Custer25 days ago

thank you for sharing!

Hannah A
Hannah A25 days ago

thank you for posting

Beth R
Anna R26 days ago

Thanks for posting

Louise A
Lara A29 days ago

Thank you

Carole R
Carole Rabout a month ago


Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

Patricia A
Past Member about a month ago

thanks for posting

Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeldabout a month ago

Holly H.,
Polls consistently show similar support among men and women. A recent gallup poll found 19% of both men and women oppose abortion under any circumstance, while slightly more women (31%) than men (26%) support abortion under any circumstance

A recent pew research poll showed similar, albeit slightly higher results, with men opposing abortion 37% to women 36% in most cases.

In later stages of pregnancy, a gallup poll found that men support abortion at a higher rate than women; 31% of men and 28% of women responded that it should be legal in the second trimester. Those numbers fall to 14% fro men and 12% for women in the third trimester.

The New York Times shows that opinions on abortion seem to be stable between races, gender, and over time.

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hillabout a month ago