The ‘Heartbeat’ Bill
To young New Yorkers, more restrictive abortion bills and a lack of access to safe and legal abortion may seem abstract; however, in Georgia, this hypothetical is quickly becoming a reality. Most people in our generation, especially in more liberal areas, take for granted that women have legal control over whether or not they have a baby.
However, there is a real threat to abortion rights in politics today, with a pro-life president, a Republican Senate, and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court leading the conversation. According to a study by Planned Parenthood, over 250 anti-abortion bills have been proposed in 2019 alone. The question at hand is this: At what stage in a pregnancy should it be illegal for someone to get an abortion? In 1973, the Supreme Court answered this question, ruling that the state should only be able to regulate abortion when the fetus is viable, or capable of life outside the mother’s womb. This ruling, known as Roe v. Wade, also declared that state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional, which is why many laws curtailing abortion rights have been overturned in the past.
Now, these new bills are part of a larger push to overturn Roe V. Wade, and the Georgia abortion bill will play a big role in chipping away at the landmark case. The Georgia bill limits abortion access to six weeks into a pregnancy, which is when the baby has a heartbeat. This change is drastic and immensely controversial. For context, the current restriction in New York State and many other states is 24 weeks. Those who oppose the Georgia bill point out that many women do not even know that they are pregnant at six weeks, especially since in many cases, it takes a missed period to figure it out. Nolan Casey (‘21) argued, “Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, you obviously have to know you are pregnant in the first place in order to even address the concept of abortion. To require a decision to be made without the pregnancy even being known at times is absurd.”
The heartbeat bill has brought these conversations into our halls. Karen Brandt, head of the Health Department at Packer, acknowledged the complexity of this topic, saying, “I think abortion is so tricky to talk about because if you truly believe that that is a life at six weeks, I totally get why people would be upset by that. That is not my personal belief, and to me, until a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, I think it should be up to a woman to choose.”
Although many people see the issue of abortion as black and white, with one side thinking that abortion is murder and the other thinking that a woman should have the right to choose, the issue is actually tinted with a lot of gray areas and moral ambiguities. An anonymous student within the Packer community believes that “if there is a heartbeat in the baby in the womb then it is immoral and should be illegal to terminate a pregnancy, because at that point the baby is alive and not just a cluster of cells, but a real human. However, in the case of sexual assault, I think there should be a pardon clause.”
The fate of the Georgia ‘heartbeat’ bill will be decided by May 12th by Governor Brian Kemp, but the struggle over Roe v. Wade and the morality of abortion will be with us for the conceivable future. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when women in New York were dying from back-alley abortions. Living in New York does not exempt us from the threat of illegal abortion; Packer students should begin to conceptualize the implications of overturning Roe v. Wade, since it will hugely shift the future of not only our generation but the whole world.