In the state of Florida and several other states, heartbeat bills are being touted by Republican legislatures as a means to challenge Roe v. Wade on a national level. Both the pro-abortion and pro-life sides have said that these bills would effectively end surgical abortion in those states. Since all surgical abortions are performed after six weeks, when a heartbeat can first be detected in a preborn child, it is conceivable that (rightly enforced) this law would end surgical abortion, thus crippling the abortion industry of it’s “cash cow.” We would be left with chemical abortion (sometimes called “abortion by pill” or “medical abortion”) which now makes up at least 30 percent of all abortions. Likely, that number would grow. However, abortions after the time a heartbeat is detected would still be illegal. This ranges from anywhere between after three to six weeks. Likely, abortionists would find legal and illegal ways to prescribe chemical abortion by pill after six weeks while not offering ultrasounds. There are a whole variety of factors that figure into this and no one really knows what the final effect would be.
In a previous article, I explained Why Personhood Florida does not support pro-life “heartbeat” bills. In response, a friend of mine asked me why we cannot support a law that even though not perfect would do so much good. Why do we have to be “all-or-nothing” in our support of Personhood?
First, we should rejoice if any life is saved. I even agree that although I think chemical abortion would become the fall back method of the abortion industry, the law could effectively close almost every abortion clinic in our state. Of course, Planned Parenthood centers that still get lots of federal funding and emphasize chemical abortion might remain open.
I’ll explain bellow why I agree that “all-or-nothingism” is a trap we can fall into. The question I will deal with first is why I consider the “Heartbeat Bill” to be not a pro-life bill at all, but a pro-abortion bill.
Prior to Roe, the state of Florida, like all states had a law banning abortion. The only exception was a life threatening situation in which a doctor could not save both lives. Then the law made the surgeon immune to prosecution. At that time, our culture trusted that in any life threatening situation, the doctor would operate to try to save both lives. Now the state of Florida allows abortion through all nine months of pregnancy under certain conditions because our state officials have falsely agreed that Roe is the “law of the land.”
The simplest method to end abortion would be to return Florida to the abortion law we had prior to Roe. As I described in my previous article, this would require either challenging Roe directly or asking or state officials to simply ignore Roe using the Tenth Amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The heartbeat bill is designed to challenge Roe. So why would we do that with a bill that says life must be protected when a heartbeat is detected, but not from the moment of conception?
The Personhood Acid Test
The original meaning of “acid test” was a method developed to test gold after the Gold Rush of the 18th century. It relied on nitric acid’s ability to dissolve other metals more readily than gold. In modern vernacular, it means something which provides definitive proof of whether something is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, effective or ineffective.
To determine whether or not the heartbeat bill is pro-life or pro-abortion, I ask three questions.
- If Roe were to be overturned tomorrow, would I want Florida law to return to what it was before Roe, or would I still support a heartbeat bill, which allows abortion prior to a heartbeat bill being detected?
- If I support the heartbeat bill as a “pro-life” measure today, then what would happen if Roe is overturned? Would it be then a pro-life law or pro-abortion law?
- Do I think that a law that allows abortion prior to six to eight weeks (such as chemical abortion) can easily be repealed in favor of a complete ban on abortion if Roe is overturned?
All the laws that we passed on our state that allow abortion with some exceptions have ingrained those exceptions in our legal code. This is why if we are for defending all human life, we should support a Personhood Amendment. This would make many of the “exceptions” laws unconstitutional. Only laws that would not need to be repealed under a Personhood Amendment — under a complete ban on abortion — would stand as morally correct laws.
So a “pain capable bill” that bans abortion only after a preborn child is capable of feeling pain would need to be repealed. However, a bill defunding organizations that lobby for abortion or promote abortion through education, such as Planned Parenthood, would not. Both are incremental measures that would not end all abortion, but only the defunding bill is consistent and compliant with Personhood.
Furthermore, putting all our eggs in one basket, planning for the day that Roe v. Wade might be overturned has skewed our thinking in many ways. We see that in many states, pro-abortionists are getting ready for Roe to be overturned. They are passing laws that allow abortion through all nine months for any reason. We need to understand that overturning Roe can’t stop a single abortion in those states.
Some have also asked us to stop promoting an Personhood Amendment and instead work for a bill that would abolish and criminalize abortion. I completely agree that this should be tried. However, passing a complete ban on abortion by law isn’t a guarantee either. Most women could then cheaply (for less than the price of an abortion) drive or fly across state lines and obtain abortion where it would still be legal.
There will also be an inevitable backlash. A strongly pro-life legislature might be replaced by a pro-abortion legislature in 2 to 4 years. A constitutional amendment is harder to pass than a law, but also harder to repeal. It would be a solid defense against liberal abortion laws.
Even without such a shift in party alignment, any law completely banning abortion will be fought by some Republicans and Democrats to include the same “exceptions,” outlined in Roe — rape, incest, or the health and life of the pregnant woman. In other words, we would have a slate of “pro-life” laws that unless repealed would codify a moderate interpretation of Roe.
However, if we can pass nearly identical Personhood amendments in 38 states, then the state legislatures can vote for a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, a federal Human Life Amendment is the only path to end all abortion in all 50 states. This is the reason why I believe our primary goal ought to be to educate the public, and lobby our state officials to ratify a Personhood Amendment to our state constitution.
The Fallacy and Folly of “All-or-Nothingism”
What makes Personhood different from some groups that are also uncompromising in defense of human life is that we don’t make the false dichotomy between “incrementalism vs. immediatism.” To be sure, it is morally wrong to write into our legal code exceptions that allow for some abortions. However, we do not believe that every incremental approach to ending abortion is immoral.
Personhood is a Christ-centered, Bible-centered organization. We stand for the sanctity of all human life, not because life is intrinsically sacred, but because we are each made in the image of a holy God. The Personhood Amendment explicitly recognizes God as the source of the right to life of all human beings. Therefore, the acid test is not “incrementalism vs. immediatism,” it is whether or not a law squares with God’s Law. God has said, “You shall not murder.” Therefore, we don’t support bills that ban some form of murder, but explicitly allow other forms of murder based on age, race, mental or physical handicaps, method of abortion, ability to feel pain, or stage of development.
We believe that the Scriptures not only prohibit creating laws that allow for murder, but God also condemns “devising evil by law” and calls those who create such laws the “throne of iniquity.”
Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?
They gather together against the life of the righteous,
And condemn innocent blood
That being said, there are several approaches that honor the Personhood of all human beings, the image of God in us, that would not end all abortion. These are approaches we should support. I will give two examples here.
- Defunding Planned Parenthood — such as removing all state and federal funding to any organization that promotes abortion.
- Laws and Court Cases that Recognize Personhood — such as a fetal homicide law dealing with automobile accidents.
Note that nothing would change if abortion were illegal and such laws were first enacted. They would stand as “Personhood compliant” laws both now and under a total abortion ban.