With even a name to inflame, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act was passed by the state of Arkansas in February of 2013, outlawing abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy if a heartbeat could be detected. At the time, the ban was the most restrictive abortion law in the country.
Since Planned Parenthood v. Casey made fetal viability, or the ability of a the fetus to survive outside the womb, the dictating limitation on the time limit for abortions, the right to terminate a pregnancy before the point of viability has been considered constitutionally granted.
However, considering that a fetus is considered viable only after 23 to 24 weeks of pregnancy, the implementation of a 12 week ban would undermine a woman’s rights and the Supreme Court conclusion on fetal viability.
Even so, the legislation moved up through state government and the Arkansas Medical Board made no attempt to scientifically defend the implication that a 12 week old fetus could survive outside the womb. Rather, Arkansas legislators used the obviously unconstitutional bill challenge the entire principle of viability.
After two lower courts ruled to bar the law from going into effect, the case fought its way up to Supreme Court deliberation, and Arkansas’ appeal for reconsideration was based on the argument that the viability standard was outdated, when really, the problem was that it didn’t serve their conservative agenda. A section of the brief read,
“This case is about the impropriety of a judicially-imposed rule that sets in stone ‘viability’ as the point before which the State’s profound interests must give way to a woman’s desire to terminate her pregnancy.”
In a victorious moment for pro-choice advocates, the high court rejected the notion of reconsideration, kicking the unlawful and oppressive ban to the curb for good, and upholding the medically sound standard of viability which allows women the choice and control they’re owed. The decision offers some assurance that conservative lawmaker’s ceaseless attempts to strip women of their autonomy, dignity, and rights are met with strong and rational opposition.