Inside the conservative organization undermining abortion access one state at a time
By Ray Levy-Uyeda
Dec 26, 2019
This year, a record number of six-week abortion bans, dubbed “heartbeat bills," were introduced at the state level. The goal of these restrictive measures was ostensibly to “protect the lives of the unborn” — as well as to issue a sneaky challenge to existing law set by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which says abortion is legal in all 50 states. The bans rely on the bogus claim that a vaginal ultrasound can detect a fetal “heartbeat” six weeks into pregnancy, giving pro-life advocates a foundational claim to fetal personhood.
In reality, these “heartbeats” are not any real sign of sentient life. But the movement is successfully restricting access to abortion in large part because of the activism of one woman: Ohioan Janet Folger Porter, who uses her organization, Faith2Action, to lobby for and proliferate such legislation.
Heartbeat Abortion Bills Were Once a Fringe Idea. Could They Overturn Roe v. Wade?
Three states have enacted heartbeat bills. Ten more are considering them.
When anti-abortion activist Janet Porter first introduced the idea of a “heartbeat” bill in 2011, she was almost laughed out of the room. The proposal—to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, or at about six weeks gestation—was so extreme that many of her fellow Republicans thought it was impossible.
A decade later, GOP lawmakers around the country are rushing to adopt Porter’s signature legislation, in hope of forcing the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court to re-examine Roe v. Wade. Georgia is poised to become the third state to enact such a ban in the first three months of 2019 alone. Ten other states are currently considering the legislation, which experts say would ban abortions before most women know they are pregnant.