Mich. Lawmakers Propose 'Heartbeat' Abortion Ban

June 16, 2014 — A three-bill package (HB 5643, HB 5644, HB 5645) in the Michigan House would require abortion providers to perform an abdominal ultrasound before the procedure and ban performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, MLive reports.

According to MLive, an ultrasound can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Bill Details

State Rep. Tom Hooker (R) introduced the bills, alongside one independent and 15 Republican co-sponsors. The bills now proceed to the chamber's committee on health policy.

If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the bills would require abortion providers to offer patients a chance to listen to it. If a heartbeat is not detectable, the doctor would have to advise the patient on whether she should undergo an internal ultrasound and state that a procedure to remove fetal remains is not an abortion.

The bills would impose penalties of up to four years in prison and fines of up to $50,000 for performing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

Potential Constitutional Conflicts

Ed Rivet -- legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, which generally supports antiabortion-rights legislation -- said that at least two of the bills could conflict with Roe v. Wade. Rivet said that while the organization "support[s] the concept that unborn children with a heartbeat should be protected," this "may not be an ideal time to push it in the courts."

A similar ban (HB 1456) in North Dakota recently was struck down as unconstitutional, as was a 12-week ban (Act 301) in Arkansas.

Hooker acknowledged the legal concerns about the ban and proposed criminal penalties, but he said that the bill requiring women to be given an opportunity to listen for a fetal heartbeat would help reduce abortions.

However, state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D) said it is "insulting to all the women of Michigan to insinuate that women aren't intelligent and competent enough to make their own medical decisions without the state's interference" (Oosting, MLive, 6/12).