Following the lead of other states, my state of Florida now has a “heartbeat bill” in the legislature that, if passed and signed into law by the governor, would effectively ban abortions in Florida once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Abortions up to 24th week of pregnancy are currently allowed in the state of Florida.
HB 235 requires:
- a physician to perform an examination for, and inform a woman obtaining an abortion of the presence of, a detectable fetal heartbeat;
- the physician to review the results of such examination with the patient before the woman gives informed consent for the abortion procedure;
- that a woman who declines to review the results certify in writing that she did so of her own free will and without undue influence.
The bill was introduced by Representative Mike Hill, a Republican from Pensacola. It would make it a third-degree felony to perform abortions “when a fetal heartbeat is detected.” The bill also redefines a fetus as an “unborn human being” categorized as such “from fertilization until live birth.”
“I feel it is my obligation, it is my duty, to protect life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including those who are unborn,” said Representative Hill. Another legislator, Representative Anna V. Eskamani, a Democrat from Pensacola, who is the former senior director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Southwest Central Florida, responded that “decisions about a woman’s pregnancy should be ‘left between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith—not politicians.’”
A similar bill, SB 792, has been introduced in the Florida Senate.
“Heartbeat bills” have been proposed for the last few years, although every time one is enacted it is struck down by the federal courts. The plan seems to be to get a case involving a “heartbeat” bill before the Supreme Court so that the infamous case of Roe v. Wade (1973) can be overturned by the Court’s conservative majority. In Roe, the Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. States may not ban abortions before the fetus is determined to be “viable.” The case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) reaffirmed Roe, and further prohibited states from imposing an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion.
The problem with these “heartbeat bills,” aside from the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees that some states have spent defending them, is that the person least likely to want to discover a baby’s heartbeat—the abortionist—is the one responsible to check for a heartbeat.
The recent flood of “heartbeat bills” in state legislatures is a response to laws like that recently passed in New York that effectively allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy (kill her baby) up to the point of birth.
How sad that “heartbeat bills” are challenged in courts, but abortions in the last trimester of pregnancy are not. How tragic that there is waiting period to buy a gun, but not to have an abortion.
Conservative Christians, of which I am one, are cheering these “heartbeat bills,” and I am cheering, in principle, with them. However, there is an unintended consequence of these bills that I should point out. They serve to reinforce the attitude that is all to prevalent among conservative Christians: let the government do it.
No need to persuade women to not get an abortion—let the government do it by imposing restrictions on abortion.
And it’s not just abortion where many conservative Christians have abdicated their responsibility.
No need to persuade people not to gamble—let the government do it by prohibiting gambling or imposing restrictions on it.
No need to persuade people not to abuse drugs—let the government do it by declaring war on drugs.
No need to persuade women not to sell their bodies—let the government do it by outlawing prostitution.
No need to persuade teenagers not to listen to music with raunchy lyrics—let the government do it by mandating warning labels on records.
No need to have prayer and Bible reading in the home—let the government do it by requiring these things in public schools.
No need to persuade people to spend time in church or with their families—let the government do it by forbidding car dealers from opening on Sunday.
No need to persuade teenagers not to smoke—let the government do it by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.
No need to feed the hungry—let the government do it with food stamps.
No need to care for the aged, widows, orphans, and disabled—let the government do it with Social Security.
No need to persuade people not to abuse alcohol—let the government do it by instituting Prohibition, raising the drinking age to 21, or preventing businesses from selling alcohol on Sunday.
No need to persuade unmarried people not to commit fornication—let the government do it by criminalizing fornication.
On this last point I note that the Utah legislature recently passed a bill to decriminalize fornication.
In Title 76, Chapter 7, Part 1, Section 104 of the Utah Criminal Code it says this about fornication:
(1) Any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication.
(2) Fornication is a class B misdemeanor.
Violation of this law, which is no longer enforced, can result in up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000.
The Utah state legislature recently passed legislation to repeal this law. Yet, some conservatives in the Utah House disapproved of the repeal.
Conservative Christians, of all people, should not look to the government to do anything.