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Photo by Maj. William Carraway/CC BY 2.0

Weeks ago, I was celebrating the fact that a federal judge had put a block on the ‘heartbeat bill’ Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into action on May of this year. That celebratory mood wilted recently when Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced the heartbeat bill to this state. Though Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has promised to veto any such bill, that doesn’t change the fact that if legislature overrides him, the bill would be tied up in court, and a woman’s right to choose would hang precariously in the balance. That includes women on this campus, women in the surrounding city, and women all over the state whose access to their own bodies are being debated and regulated by men in office.  

The heartbeat bill is a form of abortion restriction that dictates abortions are illegal as soon as a fetal or embryonic heartbeat is detectable. North Dakota was the first state to pass this bill into law in 2013. At the moment, people in Pennsylvania are permitted to obtain abortions through 24 weeks of pregnancy, or later in the case of a medical emergency. The heartbeat bill would slash this allotment to a fourth of its former self, seeing as one can normally detect a heartbeat as early as six to eight weeks. This bill also makes no exceptions for cases of incest or rape. Considering how prevelant sexual abuse has proven to be on college campuses, this clause strikes me as particularly alarming and severe.  

Already, five states passed heartbeat bills this year. I worry and question if Pennsylvania, a state home to over 160 four-year colleges and 12.81 million residents, will be next. Even though judges in many of these other circumstances have placed temporary injunctions on the laws, this distracts attention from good legislation that could be attended to. 

My primary concern is that the bill divorces a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body from her actual ability to enforce those decisions. On a more concrete level, the heartbeat bill disregards the reality that many women do not even know they’re pregnant until six or eight weeks have passed. If this bill gets passed into action, realizing you are pregnant only six weeks into your gestation still makes it too late to seek abortion rights in the state of Pennsylvania. 

Some believe the pursuit of the heartbeat bill in this state is a waste of time. But split decisions at the circuit level court could force the Supreme Court’s involvement. Before we know it, conservative perspectives on abortion could instigate the latest Supreme Court showdown. Lawmakers who support the bill cite the fact that they are protecting unborn children who cannot protect themselves. I say why not protect the women who are already full-fledged human beings and citizens of the states they have taken oaths to serve? Or why not protect the children who are homeless and going without food or water? Why not place your energies and efforts into protecting the kids who are trying to immigrate to our country in search of safety? Why not care about the people who can speak for themselves, and listen to what they want?

Signing a law like this into existence would be a slap in the face to any person with female reproductive organs as far as I’m concerned, and dedicating much-needed time to both its prevention and persecution deflects necessary time away from important legislative work that could actually benefit the people of this state. 

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu.

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