Heartbeat laws ban abortion from the moment in pregnancy that a heartbeat can be detected. Heartbeat laws are among the strongest pro-life laws ever adopted on the state level since the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision prohibited states from banning abortion prior to viability. Additionally, these laws may prove to be key in leading the Supreme Court to reconsider and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade.
An embryonic heartbeat can be detected very early in pregnancy, typically by 6-10 weeks gestation using the best methods of standard medical practice and typically by 7-12 weeks via transabdominal ultrasound.1 However, some studies claim to have been able to detect embryonic heartbeats via ultrasound even earlier than 6 weeks.2
Studies have shown that less than 5% of normal, natural pregnancies result in spontaneous miscarriage after a heartbeat is detected.3,4,5 This has been shown to hold true even among women with clinically diagnosed threatened miscarriages.6,7 The presence of a fetal heartbeat is a very strong indicator that a child will survive to birth.
Heartbeat laws could provide the basis needed for a case to go to the Supreme Court challenging the Court’s abortion precedent in Roe and Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey. Heartbeat laws strike at the very heart of Roe’s “central holding” which maintains that states are prohibited from banning abortion prior to viability. Heartbeat laws directly challenge the Supreme Court’s viability and undue burden standards as outlined in Roe and Casey. A case challenging the constitutionality of heartbeat laws would give the Supreme Court a potent opportunity to revise its past decisions on abortion.
Heartbeat legislation has been introduced or passed into law in 25 states so far. Heartbeat bills have also been introduced on the federal level as well. The Heartbeat Protection Act (H.R. 490) was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2017 and again in 2019.
The first ever heartbeat bill was introduced in the Ohio state House of Representatives in 2011 as HB 125, sponsored by former Rep. Lynn Wachtmann.
On March 6, 2013, Arkansas became the first state to pass a heartbeat bill into law when the state House and Senate voted to override the veto of then-Governor Mike Beebe, allowing the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act to become law. A few weeks later on March 26, 2013, a similar heartbeat bill was signed into law in North Dakota as well by then-Governor Jack Dalrymple.
Both heartbeat laws, however, were ultimately struck down in federal court, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals noting that Supreme Court precedent “does not permit [lower courts] to reach a contrary result.”
Heartbeat bills were nearly adopted in Ohio in 2016 and again in 2018. Heartbeat bills passed both the Ohio House and Senate in 2016 and 2018, however, both bills were ultimately vetoed by then-Ohio Governor John Kasich. Attempts to override Gov. Kasich’s veto failed with the Senate coming only one vote short of an override in 2018.
On May 4, 2018, Iowa became the third state to adopt heartbeat legislation when Governor Kim Reynolds signed a heartbeat bill into law. A county judge in Iowa has since blocked the law from going into effect.
This year, heartbeat bills have advanced in legislatures in a number of states with the intent that passing heartbeat laws could provide the basis for case before the Supreme Court challenging, and ultimately overturning, Roe v. Wade. In 2019, heartbeat bills have been signed into law in Kentucky and Mississippi with another heartbeat bill expected to be adopted soon in Georgia. Heartbeat bills have also been introduced in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
Below we provide a history of heartbeat legislation in every state where bills or resolutions has been introduced.
Heartbeat bills have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature almost every year since 2014. To date, no heartbeat bill has yet passed either the Alabama House of Representatives or the Senate. The following is a list of heartbeat bills that have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature:
HB 490 (Full text)
HB 405 (Full text)
SB 9 (Full text)
HB 21 (Full text)
HB 154 (Full text)
Arkansas was the first state in the U.S. to pass into law a bill banning abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected. On March 6, 2013, SB 134, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act (Act 301), became law after both the Arkansas House and Senate voted to override the veto of then-Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.
Act 301 was quickly challenged in federal court. A federal judge ultimately struck down the portion of the bill prohibiting abortions when fetal heartbeat was detected while another portion of the Act, requiring testing for a heartbeat and informing the mother when a heartbeat was detected, was left intact.
Then-Arkansas Attorney General (now Arkansas Governor) Leslie Rutledge filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court, who declined to hear the case, effectively ensuring that the lower court’s decision would remain permanent.
A brief synopsis of the history of Act 301 (SB 134) is provided below:
Florida’s first heartbeat bill (HB 235) was filed in the House of Representatives on January 10, 2019 by State Rep. Walter Bryan Hill (1st Dist.). An identical bill (SB 792) was also filed in the Florida Senate on February 6, 2019. Both bills died in committee.
A heartbeat bill (HB271) was also introduced in House in 2020 by Rep. Mike Hill.
Georgia’s first heartbeat bill (HB 481) was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 25, 2019, titled the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act. A companion bill, SB 218, was also introduced in the state Senate two days later on February 27th.
On March 7, 2019, HB 481 was approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee and the full House of Representatives passed the bill later that day on a vote of 93-73. The House passed HB 481 just in time to meet a procedural deadline in Georgia where bills must generally pass at least on chamber. HB 481 was subsequently sent to the Senate and referred to the Senate Science and Technology Committee. On March 22nd, the Senate passed HB 481 with a number of text changes on a vote of 34-18. The House approved the Senate’s version of the bill 92-78 on March 29, sending the LIFE Act to the desk of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. During his gubernatorial campaign, Kemp vowed to support heartbeat legislation banning abortion after 6 weeks gestation. He signed HB 481 on May 7, 2019. The bill was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020, but United States District Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District of Georgia issued a preliminary injunction preventing HB 481 from going into effect.
Illinois’ first heartbeat bill (HB 2462) was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 13, 2019 by Rep. Chris Miller (110th District). HB 2462 takes a unique approach from other heartbeat bills in that it bans abortion after a heartbeat can be detected by simply redefining “viability” to include a fetus with a detectable heartbeat. The bill text stipulated that abortion would be prohibited “when, in the medical judgment of the attending physician based on the particular facts of the case before the attending physician, the unborn child has a fetal heartbeat.”
HB 2462 has been assigned to the House Human Services Committee for consideration.
At the start of the 2016 Session, as PRI then reported, a heartbeat bill, authored by Indiana State Senators Jim Banks and Scott Schneider, was introduced in the state Senate. A companion bill, authored by representative Curt Nisly, was introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives.
On May 4, 2018, Iowa became the 3rd state to pass heartbeat legislation into law. Iowa’s heartbeat law (SF 359) amends the Iowa Code to ban abortions from the moment a heartbeat can be detected via abdominal ultrasound, except in cases of “a medical emergency or when the abortion is medically necessary.” SF 359 was passed by the Iowa House of Representatives on May 1, 2018 (vote tally: 51-46) and passed by the Iowa Senate on May 2nd (vote tally: 29-17). Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 359 into law on May 4, 2018.
However, soon after the law was passed, a series of lawsuits were filed in the state court system on behalf of abortion providers in the state including one from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and another from the law firm Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, representing the Emma Goldman Clinic. The State of Iowa was represented by the Thomas More Society because Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller refused to defend Iowa’s heartbeat law in court.
On June 1, 2018, Polk County District Court Judge Michael Huppert placed a temporary injunction on Iowa’s heartbeat law. On January 22, 2019, Judge Huppert permanently struck down Iowa’s heartbeat law as unconstitutional under the Iowa state constitution. Judge Huppert’s ruling was in response to a previous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that struck down a 72-hour waiting for abortion as unconstitutional under the Iowa state constitution.
Because the heartbeat law case was filed in a state court and not in a federal court (most court decisions on abortion laws on the state level are decided in the federal court system, not in the state court system), the case cannot ultimately be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court only reviews state supreme court decisions under exceptional circumstances, typically only in cases that have bearing on federal law. But the case on Iowa’s heartbeat law concerns a state constitutional question and the U.S. Supreme Court typically does not review decisions dealing with questions concerning state constitutions. The Iowa heartbeat law had been slated to go into effect on July 1, 2018 before it was struck down.
Undeterred, Iowa lawmakers are not taking the rulings of the Iowa court system sitting down. In 2019, Iowa State Senator Jake Chapman introduced two bills in the Senate (S.J.R. 9 and S.J.R. 21) to amend the Iowa state constitution to state that there is no right to abortion in the state. A companion bill (H.J.R. 5) was also introduced in the House. Although the Senate bill gained the support a majority of Senators (only a simple majority is needed to pass a bill in the Iowa Senate), the bill was not voted on. During the 2020 legislative session, both H.J.R. 5 and S.J.R. 9 were dropped in favor of a single unified bill, S.J.R. 21. State legislative trackers believe that S.J.R. 21 is likely to pass both the House and the Senate. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has indicated her support for the measure, making it a point to mention it as one of the legislative objectives of her administration in 2020. “We must protect life by making clear, through an amendment, that our constitution does not grant a right to an abortion. It’s time, and unfortunately it’s necessary,” Gov. Reynolds said in her Condition of the State address.
If the constitutional amendment passes both houses this year, it would have to be passed again by the Iowa General Assembly next year and would then have to go to Iowa voters in a referendum. If adopted, the constitutional amendment would permit Iowa lawmakers to try again in passing a heartbeat law.
Here is a brief legislative history of SF 359 (Full text):
A Kansas heartbeat bill, HB 2324 (Full text), was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs on February 13, 2013. The bill died in the Committee.
On March 15, 2019, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed a heartbeat bill (SB 9) into law banning abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected. However, Judge David Hale, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky, immediately placed a 14-day hold on the law, preventing the heartbeat law from going into effect, pending a hearing. Kentucky is the fourth state to pass heartbeat legislation into law.
SB 9 had been introduced in the Kentucky Senate on January 8, 2019. A companion heartbeat bill (HB 100) was also introduced in the House as well. On February 14th, the Senate passed SB 9 on a vote of 31-6. The House of Representatives also passed SB 9 on March 14th on a vote of 71-19.
Prior to SB 9, several heartbeat bills had been introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2013. In 2013 and 2014, the House of Representatives twice introduced heartbeat bill HB 132. Both bills ended up dying in committee.
On December 13, 2018, State Rep. Robert Goforth (89th Dist.) prefiled a heartbeat bill (BR 823) in the House for the 2019 legislative session but the General Assembly opted to use a Senate version instead.
On May 30, 2019, Louisiana became the 8th state to pass a heartbeat law.
Louisiana’s heartbeat bill (SB 184) was introduced by state Sen. John Milkovich (D – 38th District). SB 184 prefiled in the Senate on March 27, 2019 and officially introduced on April 8, 2019. SB 184 passed both houses of the Louisiana state legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. On May 6, 2019, the Senate passed SB 184 on a margin of 31-5. The House also passed the bill on a vote of 79-23 on May 29th. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a staunchly pro-life Democrat who campaigned as pro-life candidate, openly supported the bill. Gov. Edwards signed SB 184 into law on May 30, 2019.
Although not as strong as heartbeat laws passed in other states, the Louisiana law garnered wide bipartisan support and is still one of the strongest pro-life laws in the country. The law bans all abortion once a heartbeat can be detected except in cases necessary to save the mother’s life, in cases to “prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” or in cases where the unborn child has a disability “incompatible with sustain life after birth.” The law would not go into effect unless the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Mississippi’s heartbeat law.
Heartbeat legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly for the first time in 2019.
On February 8, 2019, three separate heartbeat bills were introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates: HB 933, sponsored by Del. Ric Metzgar (District 6), HB 978, sponsored by Del. Robin Grammar (District 6), and HB 1195, sponsored by Daniel Cox (District 4). All three bills were referred to the House Health and Government Operations Committee and a hearing was scheduled for March 8th. On February, 25th, HB 978 was withdraw by the bill’s sponsor. On February 25, a companion bill to HB 978 was introduced in the Senate as SB 1008 by Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (District 6).
In Michigan, heartbeat bill HB 4664 (full text) was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 23, 2019. The bill was introduced by Rep. Steven Johnson (District 72). The bill was referred to House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors.
In 2014, heartbeat bill HB 5644 (full text) had been introduced in House by former Rep. Tom Hooker. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health Policy but was never brought up for a vote.
During the 2019 legislative session, several heartbeat bills have been introduced in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature.
In the House of Representatives, heartbeat bill HF 271 was introduced on January 22, 2019 by Rep. Tim Miller (District 17A). On February 7, 2019, a companion heartbeat bill SF 869 was introduced in the Senate, principally authored by Sen. Andrew Mathews (15th District).
On March 7, 2019, a separate heartbeat bill, HF 2101, was introduced in the House by Rep. Tana Theis. On March 11, a companion bill to HF 2101 was introduced in the Senate as SF 2245 by Sen. Jeff Howe.
All four bills introduced in the Minnesota Legislature during the 2019 legislative session were referred to the respective Health and Human Services Policy committees in each chamber.
Two heartbeat bills, HF 4524 and SF 4109, were also introduced in the 2018 legislative session. Both bills were introduced after Committee deadlines and could not be considered in the 2017-2018 legislative session.
On March 21, 2019, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed heartbeat bill SB 2116 into law, banning all abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the State of Mississippi. Mississippi is the fifth state to pass heartbeat legislation into law.
SB 2116 was passed by the Senate on February 13th on a vote of 34-14. The bill later passed the House of Representatives as well with amendments on March 11th on a vote of 78-37. The Senate approved the amended version of the bill from the House on March 19th and sent the bill to the Governor for his signature the following day. The law was later challenged in court and blocked by a U.S. District Judge on May 24th.
Three other heartbeat bills had also been introduced in the Mississippi Legislature in 2019. In the House, heartbeat bills HB 732 and HB 529 were also introduced as well as a second Senate bill (SB 2688). On February 13, 2019, the House passed HB 732, but the bill was later tabled in the Senate in favor of SB 2116. HB 529 and SB 2688 were also tabled in favor of SB 2116.
Before SB 2116, numerous heartbeat bills had been introduced in the Mississippi Legislature since 2013.
A number of heartbeat bills have been introduced in the Missouri General Assembly since 2017.
On December 1, 2018, heartbeat bill SB 139 was prefiled in the Senate with Sen. Andrew Koenig (15th District) as the bill’s sponsor. On March 13th, SB 139 was incorporated into SB 279 and merged with two other pro-life bills: SB 279 (banning abortion after 22 weeks) and SB 345 (guaranteeing the right to life for the unborn). SB 279 was passed by the Senate Health and Pensions Committee on March 13, 2019.
During the 2019 legislative session, three separate heartbeat bills were introduced in the House of Representatives: HB 126, introduced by Rep. Nick Schroer (107th District), HB 870, introduced by Rep. David Gregory (96th District), and HB 964, by Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (97th District). HB 126 was passed by the Committee on Children and Families on February 19th, the Committee on Rules on February 21st, and the Committee on Fiscal Review on February 27th. The full House voted to pass HB 126 on February 27th. Missouri Governor Mike Parson indicated his support for bipartisan efforts in the House to pass pro-life legislation in the 2019 legislative session.
However, when HB 126 was taken up in the Senate, the Senate removed the heartbeat legislative provisions from the bill, replacing it instead with a complete ban abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy. As a result, HB 126 ceased being a “heartbeat bill.” The Senate passed the substituted version of HB 126 on May 15, 2019. The House concurred in the Senate amendments, passing the substituted version of HB 126 without heartbeat language. Gov. Parson signed the HB 126 into law on May 24, 2019.
Since 2014, pro-life lawmakers in the New York State Assembly have introduced several heartbeat bills. During the 2019 legislative session, a heartbeat bill (A 5389) was introduced in the State Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember David DiPietro (District 147). The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee on February 11, 2019.
The first ever heartbeat bill introduced in New Hampshire was introduced during the 2020 legislative session. On January 8, 2020, Reps. Dave Testerman (Dist 2) and Walter Stapleton (Dist 5), introduced heartbeat bill HB 1475 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. A public hearing on the heartbeat bill is scheduled to take place on January 29, 2020 at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 208.
The North Dakota bill, HB 1456 (Full text), was introduced in January 2013. The bill passed the North Dakota House in February 2013. The bill passed the North Dakota Senate the following month in March. North Dakota’s heartbeat bill was signed into law by then-Governor Jack Dalrymple on March 26, 2013.
Before the law could go into effect, Red River Women’s Clinic, represented by MKB Management Corp., sued to overturn the law in MKB Management Corp. v. Stenehjem. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem argued the case in favor of the state’s heartbeat law. Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota Daniel L. Hovland placed a temporary injunction blocking North Dakota’s heartbeat law from going into effect. On April 16, 2014, Chief Judge Hovland found North Dakota’s heartbeat law to be unconstitutional.
The State of North Dakota appealed the decision to U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which on July 22, 2015 affirmed the District Court’s ruling. In its decision, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, defended the North Dakota heartbeat law, arguing that the moment a heartbeat can be detected is the point in pregnancy that the state legislature has asserted that it has an interest in protecting “potential life” (language borrowed from Roe v. Wade). The Eighth Circuit Court argued, citing Edwards v. Beck, 786 F.3d 1113, 1119 (8th Cir. 2015), that “[t]o substitute its own preference to that of the legislature in this area is not the proper role of a court.” Nevertheless, the Eighth Circuit Court struck down North Dakota’s heartbeat law anyway “[b]ecause United States Supreme Court precedent does not permit us to reach a contrary result.”
On November 10, 2015, Attorney General Stenehjem filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States to review the decision from Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney General Stenehjem and his staff agreed to argue the case before the Supreme Court pro bono, and any further work on the case will not cost taxpayers anything. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, refused to review the case on January 25, 2016, leaving the Eighth Circuit Court’s ruling in place.
Ohio became the sixth state to adopt a heartbeat law on April 11, 2019 when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act (SB 23), banning abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected. The law is set to take effect 90 days from the date the bill was signed unless blocked by a judge.
SB 23 was first introduced on February 12, 2019 in the Ohio Senate. A heartbeat bill (HB 68) was also introduced in the House the same day but state lawmakers opted to use the Senate version instead. On March 13, 2019, the Senate passed SB 23 on a vote of 19-13. SB 23 was introduced in the Ohio House the following day and referred to the Health Committee on March 19.
On April 10, 2019, the House passed an amended version of SB 23 on a vote of 56-40. On the same day, the Senate concurred with the House amendments by a vote of 18-13. Ohio Governor Mark DeWine signed the bill the very next day.
On May 15, 2019, Ohio’s ACLU filed a lawsuit against SB 23 on behalf of abortion providers, arguing that the law is manifestly unconstitutional. Judge Michael Barrett, who blocked a dilation and evacuation ban in 2018, has been assigned to adjudicate the case.
Heartbeat legislation has a long history in Ohio. For eight years, pro-life lawmakers sought to adopt a heartbeat bill and grew closer to achieving their goal with each successive legislative term.
Heartbeat legislation first originated in Ohio. On February 24, 2011, the Ohio House of Representatives became the first legislative body in the country to introduce a bill banning abortion from the moment an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected. This first ever heartbeat bill (HB 125) later passed the House that same year on June 28 on a vote of 54-44, demonstrating that heartbeat bills can pass in state legislative bodies. HB 125, however, was not taken up by the Senate and the bill died in the Senate Rules & Reference Committee.
HB 125, however, provided a template that was later used for bills introduced in other states. This type of legislation has become known as “heartbeat” legislation.
Since HB 125, several heartbeat bills were introduced in the Ohio General Assembly with increasing success in each successive legislative term.
During the 130th General Assembly, heartbeat bills were introduced in both the House (HB 248) and the Senate (SB 297). HB 248 passed the Ohio House Committee on Health and Ageing on November 20, 2014 but failed to pass a vote by the full House.
During the 131st General Assembly, the House introduced multiple heartbeat bills (HB 69, HB 493). On March 25, 2015, the House passed HB 69 but the Senate failed to adopt the measure. Heartbeat language was added by the Senate as an amendment to a bill reforming the state’s child abuse and neglect reporting laws (HB 493) on December 6, 2016. On the same day, the House approved of the Senate’s amendment to include the heartbeat bill as part of HB 493, making HB 493 the first heartbeat bill to pass both chambers of the Ohio state legislature. As PRI reported in 2016, HB 493 was subsequently sent to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich for signature. In a controversial move, Governor Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill, arguing that heartbeat laws in both Arkansas and North Dakota had already been declared unconstitutional by federal courts and because Ohio, as a likely loosing party in a lawsuit, would “be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees of pro-choice activists’ lawyers” and would “invit[e] additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life.” However, with two new Trump-era appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court, many believe the balance of the Supreme Court has shifted, opening the possibility that the Supreme Court may uphold heartbeat laws if presented with the opportunity to decide on their constitutionality.
On June 6, 2017, Ohio State Representatives Christina Hagan (Dist. 50) and Ron Hood (Dist. 78) introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives another heartbeat bill, HB 258. On November 15, 2018, the House passed HB 258 with a bipartisan veto-proof majority (60 votes in favor, 35 against). The Ohio Senate went on to pass the bill as well on December 12, 2018 with a vote tally of 18-13, falling short of the margin necessary to override a veto. The Senate’s version of the bill added two new amendments to HB 258. The amended bill was sent back to the House of Representatives for a final vote, and the House concurred with the amendments. Ohio Governor Kasich, however, vetoed the bill on December 21, 2018. The House was able to come up with enough votes to override the Governor’s veto; however, the Senate, on a vote of 19-13, fell only one vote short of a veto override. Former Sen. Bill Beagle (5th District), while having voted for HB 258 in the original Senate vote, flip-flopped in the Senate override vote to vote against the bill.
Below is a brief timeline of heartbeat legislation in Ohio:
In Oklahoma, three heartbeat bills have been introduced in the Senate, none of which have passed:
HB 2315 (Full text) was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on May 2, 2018. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on the same day, where it remains pending.
Since 2014, pro-life lawmakers in the Rhode Island House of Representatives have introduced a resolution recognizing that “the existence of a fetal heartbeat or flutter is evidence of the existence of human life.” Unlike heartbeat bills in other states, Rhode Island’s heartbeat legislation is a resolution, not a bill. Because resolutions merely express the sense of the legislative body, they are not legally binding when passed. Consequently, unlike heartbeat bills in other states, Rhode Island’s heartbeat resolution would not ban abortion after a heartbeat can be detected. The Rhode Island heartbeat resolution would merely acknowledge a heartbeat as evidence of human life.
The resolution titled “House Resolution Recognizing the Fetus as a Human Life Upon the Existence of a Heartbeat” is authored by pro-life Rhode Island State Representative James McLaughlin. Several other pro-life lawmakers in the House have also sponsored or co-sponsored this resolution, including Reps. Nardolillo, Fellela, Corvese, Perez, and others. None of the heartbeat resolutions have passed the Rhode Island House so far.
The “South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act” has been introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly in every legislative session since the 2013-2014 legislative session.
During the 2019-2020 legislative session, heartbeat bills were introduced in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature. On December 12, 2018, heartbeat bill S 32 was prefiled in the Senate by Sen. Lawrence Grooms (District 37). On December 18, 2018, a companion heartbeat bill (H 3020) was also prefiled in the House of Representatives by Rep. John McCravy (District 13). Both bills were officially introduced in the legislature on January 8, 2019. On April 25, 2019, the House passed heartbeat bill H. 3020, with 64 voting in favor and 22 voting against. The bill was sent to the Senate and referred to Committee on Medical Affairs.
In the Senate, a subcommittee of the Committee on Medical Affairs voted on October 22, 2019 to amend H. 3020 to remove exemptions for rape and incest that were included in the original house bill. When H. 3020 reached the full Senate Committee on Medical Affairs, however, the Committee voted to put the rape and incest exemptions back into the bill, though this time with a compromise provision requiring women to provide a police report before claiming an exemption for rape or incest.
Heartbeat bills introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly since 2018 have been true heartbeat bills; that is, they ban abortion at any point during the pregnancy from the moment a heartbeat can be detected. Before 2018, however, heartbeat bills introduced in the South Carolina Legislature only sought to ban abortion when a heartbeat could be detected after 12 weeks post-conception (approximately 14 weeks gestation). As studies have shown, a heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks gestation with the best medical technology available and sometimes even as early as 5 weeks. As a result, these initial bills in South Carolina were not technically heartbeat bills because they did not ban abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected but only when a heartbeat can be detected after a specified gestational age.
From 2013-2017, “heartbeat” bills introduced in the South Carolina Legislature aimed to ban abortion only when a heartbeat can be detected after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
On June 19, 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a heartbeat bill (HB 2263), making Tennessee the 10th state to pass heartbeat legislation. Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who had strongly supported the legislative effort, signed Tennessee’s heartbeat bill into law on July 13, 2020.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood immediately sued the state once HB 2263 was signed into law. The heartbeat law has been put on a temporary hold by a federal district court, temporarily blocking the law from taking effect.
HB 2263 bans abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected via ultrasound starting as early as 6 weeks gestation. The bill also includes a series of provisions that would automatically trigger heartbeat laws banning abortion as early as 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks in the event that the courts strike down the ban at 6 weeks or any later-term ban.
The bill enacts strong protections for the life of the unborn child and does not include exemptions for fetal disability, rape, or incest. The only exemption included in the bill is in the case of a “medical emergency” which Tennessee state law defines as when the mother’s life is at immediate risk or “to avoid a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” (TN Code § 39-15-211 (2018)). But even in the event of a medical emergency, the bill requires the attending physician to, if possible, save both the mother and the child.
HB 2263 was not originally written as a heartbeat bill. HB 2263 was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 5, 2020 as a bill to extend the number of days a physician accused of performing a partial-birth abortion can delay his/her trial while awaiting a determination from the state medical board to determine whether the procedure was medically necessary to save the life of the mother from 30 days to 60 days. However, a series of amendments were later proposed for the bill which sought to amend the bill with comprehensive heartbeat legislation protecting the life of the unborn child.
An amendment adding heartbeat legislation to HB 2263 that was introduced by Tennessee state Representative Esther Helton (R-House Dist. 30) was adopted by the House on June 18, 2020. This amended version of HB 2263 was passed by the House of Representatives the following day on June 19. On the same day, the Senate took up the bill and chose to add their own heartbeat legislation amendment to HB 2263, opting instead for heartbeat language in an amendment sponsored by state Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Senate Dist. 26). The amended HB 2263 was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on June 19th with a vote of 23 in favor and 5 against. The Senate’s version of the bill was approved the same day on June 19th on an equally lopsided vote of 70 in favor, 20 against, and 1 present not voting.
Heartbeat bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly every year since 2017. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has been a strong supporter of heartbeat legislation all throughout the legislative process.
In 2019, a separate heartbeat bill had been introduced in the House of Representatives (HB 77) on January 23, 2019. HB 77 passed the House on March 7, 2019 by a margin of 65-21. The companion bill to HB 77 was SB 1236 but lawmakers decided during the 2020 legislative session to use HB 2263 instead.
The companion bill to HB 77 in the Senate (SB 1236) was introduced on February 7, 2019. SB 1236 was deferred to summer study on April 9, 2019. The Senate continued considering SB 1236 during the 2020 legislative session, but lawmakers ultimately chose to use HB 2263 as the vehicle for heartbeat legislation instead.
HB 77 and SB 1236 were similar to heartbeat bills introduced in 2018 and 2017. On January 26, 2017, Tennessee State Rep. James Van Huss (Jonesborough) introduced HB0108, the Tennessee heartbeat bill, in the Tennessee House of Representatives. On January 31, 2017, Tennessee State Sen. Mae Beavers (Mt. Juliet) introduced a companion bill, SB0244, in the Senate. The bills were reintroduced during the 2018 session as HB1892 and SB1961, both of which died in committee.
The original heartbeat bill, HB0108, would have banned all abortion in Tennessee from the moment a heartbeat could be detected via abdominal ultrasound, except in cases of a medical emergency that would threaten the life of the mother or that would risk “substantial and irreversible impairment of a bodily function.”
However, a written opinion issued by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery warned the Tennessee General Assembly that the heartbeat bills proposed by the House and Senate may not have withstood constitutional scrutiny. Attorney General Slatery however said that the bills’ provisions requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion procedure may be constitutionally valid.
The bill was also opposed by some pro-lifers, including Tennessee Right to Life, out of fear that HB0108 would have given the U.S. Supreme Court, which at that time had a pro-abortion majority, an opportunity to strengthen Roe v. Wade by declaring heartbeat laws unconstitutional.
As a result, the provisions banning abortion from the moment a heartbeat can be detected was stripped from HB0108 through an amendment added to the bill on February 12, 2018. As such, the new amended version of HB0108 ceased to become a heartbeat bill.
In its place, provisions were added requiring doctors to offer women the opportunity to know the results of an ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion. However, nothing in the new amended HB0108 requires abortionists to perform an ultrasound in the first place. Abortionists are only required to offer women undergoing abortion the results of an ultrasound if they choose to perform the test. The newly amended HB0108 later passed both the House and the Senate and was later signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam, but because the heartbeat language was taken out of the bill, the law is not a heartbeat law.
In 2019, heartbeat bill HB 1500 was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives by Rep. Briscoe Cain (Dist. 128) on February 7th. HB 1500 was referred to the House Public Health Committee on February 27th.
Before the 2019 legislative session, one other heartbeat bill had been introduced in the Texas Legislaure back in 2013. Heartbeat bill HB 59 was introduced in the House on July 18, 2013 by Rep. Phil King (Dist. 61). HB 59 was filed but was never referred to a committee for consideration.
In West Virginia, three heartbeat bills were been introduced in the state legislature during the 2019 legislative session. On February 7, 2019, heartbeat bill HB 2903 was introduced in the House of Delegates with Del. Ralph Rodighiero (D - 24th District) as the bill’s lead sponsor. The following day, on February 8th, another heartbeat bill (HB 2915) was introduced in the House by the bill’s lead sponsor Del. Evan Worrell (R – 18th District). Both bills were referred to the House Health and Human Resources Committee and subsequently to the Judiciary Committee. On February 14, a heartbeat bill was introduced in the Senate, SB 606, by state Sen. Randy Smith (R – 14th District). SB 606 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources. None of the bills introduced in the 2019 were brought up for a vote before the legislative session ended.
A fetal heartbeat bill, HB 97 (Full text), was introduced in Wyoming in January of 2013. The bill was struck down by a house committee in February 2013.
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