In a press conference after Wednesday’s hearing on the so-called “heartbeat bill,” a measure that would ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, Rep. Louie Gohmert insisted that people who support rape and incest exceptions in abortion bans should support the bill because “the time is there” for rape survivors to terminate a pregnancy before the bill’s deadline.
The “heartbeat bill” was initially developed by far-right Ohio activist Janet Porter, who led the press conference. It would ban abortions after “the fetus has a detectable heartbeat,” which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
While the bill does include an exception for abortions necessary to save the lives of pregnant women who are under “physical” danger, Gohmert said that the “life of the mother” wasn’t an issue because “doctors are always charged with preserving life and whatever life has the best chance of living, you do everything you can to preserve it, whether it’s the mother or the child, so that’s really not an issue.”
As for the bill’s lack of exceptions for rape or incest survivors, Gohmert said “we don’t even have to get into that argument regardless of how anyone feels” because the bill would give rape survivors plenty of time to get an abortion if they wanted to.
“There’s six to eight weeks, we’re told, before a heartbeat is detected, so even if you’re a proponent of abortion after rape or incest, it still is not preventing that,” he said. “I’m not going to get into a debate on that because it does not apply on this bill. The time is there.”
He concluded that “you can still support this bill” even if you think that abortion bans should include exceptions for rape survivors.
Gohmert doesn’t appear to understand how pregnancy works. A woman who is six weeks pregnant would not have had six weeks to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy and arrange for an abortion if she decided to do so.
Doctors begin to measure a fetus’ gestational age at the start of a woman’s last menstrual period, usually about two weeks before conception. A fertilized egg implants around the fourth week of pregnancy. Pregnancy tests are most accurate after you’ve missed a period, so at about four or five weeks into pregnancy. Which means that many women won’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks and certainly won’t have had much time to think over their options and to arrange an abortion if that’s what they want to do.
Porter has similarly argued that the “heartbeat bill” negates pro-choice arguments “because you can still technically have an abortion if you’re raped, or a victim of incest, or for any other reason.” But she has also admitted that the goal of the bill is to eventually outlaw all abortions.