Mandatory Heartbeat Bills: Excessive or Essential?

Abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood are all about empowering women to make “informed and responsible choices” about serious medical procedures, right?

Mandatory heartbeat laws do precisely that: they require abortionists to offer their patients the chance to listen to their unborn babies’ heartbeats before deciding to go through with an abortion. Just information: no regulations, no restrictions, no penalties.

Granted, the significance of hearing an unborn baby’s heartbeat makes it obvious why the “choice” movement can’t just stand by idly as these laws sweep the nation, but it’s still hard to fathom how they can rationalize opposition. At women’s health & lifestyle website Blisstree, Elizabeth Nolan Brown gives it a try:

At a time when there’s so much focus on cutting back on medical costs and unnecessary health care, mandating a procedure that serves no medical purpose seems absurd.

Actually, hearing a fetal heartbeat does have medical purposes. First, if heeded, it can spare women the psychological trauma of abortion. Second, it provides an obvious medical benefit to the baby by making him or her less likely to be killed by a mother who’s just been convinced or reminded of her child’s humanity.

And the bill doesn’t merely propose that a medically unnecessary procedure take place—it also mandates how doctors must talk about it. It places government bureaucrats in the role of physicians, substituting ideology for science or medical knowledge.

Considering that Ms. Brown doesn’t bother to give any examples of the unscientific propaganda doctors will supposedly be forced to regurgitate, it seems safe to assume that she’s just upset about making abortionists accurately describe what they’re destroying. Indeed, Ms. Brown neglects to mention the reason why abortion “physicians” can’t be trusted to inform their patients: because they’re the ones who’ve been repeatedly caught “substituting ideology for science or medical knowledge.”

Forcing women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds isn’t just unnecessary, it’s also unfair. It requires a pregnant woman who has already decided that carrying a fetus to term is not the right decision at that time to endure one more time-consuming, uncomfortable hurdle to obtaining a safe, legal surgery. Maybe for some women, this is simply a hassle. But for women who may feel more conflicted about their decision to abort, the process is cruel and manipulative.

It’s only “unfair” if the information is irrelevant to the procedure they’re considering, which clearly isn’t the case. It’s only “cruel and manipulative” if the information is false or misleading, which it isn’t—pictures and recordings don’t lie. Sure, it can be “uncomfortable” to see the undeniable humanity of what you’re about to dispose of, but that’s the point: revealing that the “choice” to abort is far more consequential than the pro-choicers would have you believe. A little discomfort before aborting is far preferable to the emotional devastation of realizing you were responsible for extinguishing an innocent life.

The whole heartbeat bill idea seems to be predicated on the assumption that women seeking abortions somehow don’t realize that there’s a fetus growing inside of them. But anyone who’s ever been pregnant knows how quickly the body begins changing when you’re with child. Pregnancy is not subtle. And all women who have abortions are not so idiotic or delusional as to be unable to comprehend what’s happening inside their bodies.

First, comprehending that there’s something growing inside your body doesn’t necessarily mean you know that something’s precise nature—the abortion lobby’s years of propaganda have seen to that. Second, it doesn’t exactly help Ms. Brown’s case to concede that many women know better yet have their babies killed anyway. Third, we don’t make laws for the majority who would never break them, but for the minority who would. Do speed limits imply that we’re all reckless drivers?

The central failing of arguments like Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s is also the key reason why heartbeat requirements are necessary: nowhere does she give a moment’s consideration to the baby. In both her column and in clinics across the country, the little patient is treated like he or she doesn’t exist. But giving that baby a chance for his or her heartbeat to be heard before every abortion sends an unmistakable message where it’s needed most: “Here I am!”