Human Rights

Heartbeat Act continues pulse on appeal

“Three generations of Americans have witnessed decisions by the United States Supreme Court which explicitly degrade fellow human beings to something less in law than persons in the whole sense[,]” stated Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver’s remarks were made in light of the recent filing of Liberty Counsel’s amicus brief on June 3, 2014 to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a district court’s decision in Edwards v. Beck.

The Edwards case examined the Arkansas’ Human Heartbeat Protection Act. The Heatbeat Act was passed in 2013 by the Arkansas General Assembly requiring a physician to perform an ultrasound to detect the baby’s heartbeat, disclosure from the physician to the patient that the fetus has a heartbeat, and banning abortions performed at 12-weeks or more where a fetal heartbeat is detected (with few exceptions).

In March of 2014, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright struck down parts of the bill—namely, banned abortions once a heartbeat is detected and the fetus was at 12 weeks gestation, concluding, “…the twelve-week abortion ban included in Act 301 prohibits pre-viability abortions and thus impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”

Relying on Roe v. Wade, Judge Wright articulated viability to mean “‘the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb, so that the independent existence of the second life can in reason and all fairness be the object of state protection.’” She further stated, “…viability in a particularly case is a matter for medical judgment, and it is attained when, the judgment of the attending physician on the particular facts of the case at hand, that there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival outside the womb.”

In response to the district court’s ruling, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed an appeal challenging the viability standard that was struck down as unconstitutional, in the Eighth Circuit Court. AG McDaniel sought the aid of Liberty Counsel in the case’s appeal process.

Discrediting Roe’s viability standard coupled with findings from The South Dakota Task Force Report on Abortion forms the foundational arguments of Liberty Counsel’s recently filed amicus brief. One finding from the Task Report shows “women whose first pregnancies ended in abortion were 65% more likely to score in the ‘high risk’ range for clinical depression, compared to women whose first pregnancy resulted in a live a birth.” Staver commented, “Abortion is not only an act of murder against the preborn child, it also destroys the lives of the very women pro-abortion advocates claim to be protecting.” The devastating consequences of abortion are further portrayed by personal testimony exhibited in the brief from women who were deceived and misinformed about the abortion procedure.

The filed brief urges the revisiting of the viability standard taken from Roe. With the passage of time, the Roe decision appears to date itself. “[A]s medical advances have provided greater information about the developing child, the Supreme Court’s viability standards should be abandoned to come in line with science.”

The upcoming hearing of Liberty Counsel’s brief in support of upholding The Human Heartbeat Protection Act in its entirety is particularly crucial. The Act, if fully upheld, will play a vital role in the protection of both women and the dignity of unborn lives.

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