Rep. Steve King (R-IA) admitted that his so-called heartbeat bill serves the same function as a total abortion ban on Tuesday alongside some of the most virulent anti-choice voices in the U.S. Congress and the activist community.
Unconstitutional “heartbeat bills” amount to total abortion bans, ending legal abortion care as early as six weeks into a pregnancy—before many people know they are pregnant.
“We think that this bill, properly applied, does eliminate a large, large share of the abortions—90 percent or better of the abortions in America,” King said. He cited an exception for the physical health of the pregnant person, “consistent with the moral foundation that human life is sacred in all of its forms.”
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King’s explanation failed to mention that the bill denies access to abortion care on the basis of “psychological or emotional” conditions.
Several Republicans known for their radical anti-choice rhetoric flanked King as he spoke at the podium. Among those present: GOP Reps. Trent Franks (AZ), synonymous with conservative and often racially biased anti-abortion myths, and Louie Gohmert (TX), known for fiery takes on abortion, sex education, Planned Parenthood, transgender people, and Muslims.
Janet Porter, the extremist anti-choice activist behind Ohio Republicans’ failed total abortion ban, ran the majority of the press conference from the podium typically reserved for congressional lawmakers. Porter introduced numerous anti-choice activists, including representatives from Priests for Life and Students for Life of America. She interrupted journalists to ask for their names and news outlets before King answered their questions.
Porter convinced King to introduce the federal abortion ban at the funeral of notorious Equal Rights Amendment opponent Phyllis Schlafly, People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported in October.
King’s office previously told Rewire that next steps on the legislation would be forthcoming, but the Iowa congressman didn’t have much to add.
Republicans, King said, are “pretty early in this process”—too early to secure commitments from the full House Judiciary Committee, led by Chair Greg Walden (R-OR), and House Republican leaders to advancing the total abortion ban through the chamber.
King hopes to hold a hearing on the total abortion ban in the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice after he’s built more support for it.
Rewire last week interviewed “appalled” Democrats who said they were wary of King’s leadership of the subcommittee in the 115th Congress.
During a subcommittee hearing in 2016, King interrogated a reproductive justice advocate over whether killing “partially delivered” puppies would amount to a crime in an apparent attempt to draw a parallel between puppies and Black babies. King added abortion to his list of grievances against Black Americans in an interview with Rewire as he left the hearing.