When it comes to abortion laws, there's absolutely no consensus on what we all as Americans feel is appropriate. But in Arkansas this week, state lawmakers have decided they know what's best -- passing a law that prohibits abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by an abdominal ultrasound. Even after Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, called it "blatantly unconstitutional" and vetoed it. Now the state has what will be by far the country's most restrictive ban on abortion.
To be fair, it's a very hazy issue on which even people who consider themselves pro-choice find themselves grappling with. When should it simply be just too late to terminate a pregnancy? I'd argue that 12 weeks is far too early. Fetal heartbeat or not, there is a need for abortions to be legal that "late in the game."
While 88 percent of all abortions are obtained within the time period Arkansas is specifying, a post-12 week abortion should not be out of the question for various reasons ...
- Some women may not even recognize that they are pregnant until the pregnancy is advanced beyond that time frame -- due to irregular menstruation, thinking they're in menopause, believing they cannot become pregnant for various reasons (breastfeeding, undergoing medical treatment), or having their pregnancies initially misdiagnosed by physicians (it happens!).
- There are also instances where there are serious medical complications -- pregnant women are susceptible to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, severe depression, addictions, and other serious health problems. Surgery, X-rays, chemotherapy, or other treatment vital to a woman's health or life may come to a halt once the pregnancy is discovered. A woman might choose abortion if a continued pregnancy would worsen her condition and/or threaten her life, or if she requires further treatments that may damage a developing fetus.
- A fetus could have severe abnormalities, like an undeveloped brain, a severe metabolic disorder, or no working kidney. She may wish to end the pregnancy rather than give birth to a child who will suffer and die in infancy or who will have severe disabilities. Unfortunately, the results of amniocentesis, one of the most important prenatal diagnostic tests, are generally not available until the 15th or 16th week of pregnancy, thus delaying the abortion decision.
These are just a few of a whole slew of scenarios that could influence a woman to seek an abortion after this inane deadline that Arkansas lawmakers are setting. And these scenarios are exactly why the limit established by Supreme Court gives women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb -- which is usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.
That said, it's hopeful that the Arkansas law is going to be found unconstitutional and overturned ASAP. (The ACLU is already gearing up to sue.) Because of course no one would wish any of the above on anyone, but live can take some unexpected turns, and Arkanas women deserve their constitutional right to do what's right for them and their fetus.
How do you feel about this law?