House Republicans are scheduled to hold a hearing next week on legislation that would ban abortion at the first detection of a fetal heartbeat before many women even know they're pregnant. The bill, known as the "Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017," was introduced by representative Steve King (R-Iowa) in January. "We think this bill properly applied does eliminate a large, large share of the abortions—90% or better—of the abortions in America,” King told reporters in January.
The baby's heart starts to beat at around 6 weeks, or about two weeks after one might notice a missed period. You may be able to hear – and see – your baby's heart beat for the first time when you're about 8 weeks pregnant if you have an early ultrasound exam. How early the sound can be picked up depends on your baby's position in your uterus, your weight, and the accuracy of your due date.
State legislators have tried for years to push through six-week abortion bans, but none have succeeded—largely because they're unconstitutional and can cost states hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in court costs if they decide to appeal decisions to block the bans. For example, the state of North Dakota in 2013 paid $245,000 in legal fees after losing a challenge to its fetal heartbeat legislation.
The Trump administration wants to replace normal birth control methods with "fertility awareness," but the problem with this method is that it is very unreliable. Fertility planning, also known as the "calendar method" or "rhythm method," requires women to diligently track their menstrual cycles, pinpoint the days when they're ovulating and avoid sex during that time in order to be effective. About 30 percent of women experience irregular periods which makes this type of fertility planning to have one of the highest rates of failure of any family-planning method.
"I'm quite concerned it could lead to more unintended pregnancy," Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an OB/GYN based in Los Angeles and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Newsweek. Rates of unintended pregnancy and teen births have hit record lows over the last two years, as has the abortion rate. Experts agree that access to birth control and more information about effective ways to prevent pregnancy have contributed to this downward trend. Brandi worries the Trump administration's endorsement of calendar planning could send those rates soaring again.
Instead of providing comprehensive sex education programs, which have been proven to lower pregnancy rates, legislators have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting for abortion bans. It is always better to raise awareness of birth control and make it accessible to all women than to impose bans that won’t be effective.
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