January 30, 2013 — Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert (R) this week introduced legislation (SB 134) that would prohibit abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which could be as early as six weeks of pregnancy, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The bill would require that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo a test to try to detect a fetal heartbeat. The legislation would not prohibit abortion in cases of rape, incest or if a woman's life is in danger.
Under the bill, a provider convicted of providing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable could be charged with a class D felony and face a six-year maximum prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Women would not be charged.
Rapert, who believes the bill could withstand a court challenge, said he might present the issue to the Senate Public Health Committee as early as this week. Eighteen of the Senate's 35 members are co-sponsors, the AP/Journal-Constitution reports.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland officials called the measure "extreme" and pledged to fight it. Murry Newbern, a lobbyist and policy analyst for the group, said, "There are many possible outcomes of pregnancy, including fetal development issues that cannot be detected in the first six weeks." A pregnant woman who develops complications would be left "without legal medical options to save her life," Newbern added (DeMillo, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/28).