Heartbeat Bans

This law topic summary was last updated on: May 30, 2019

Heartbeat bans attempt to outlaw abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, which is often in the embryonic stage, as early as six weeks’ gestation, before many people even know they are pregnant. These laws, some of the most extreme in the country, are flatly unconstitutional because they seek to ban abortion months before the point at which a fetus is viable.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, made it clear that states may not ban abortion outright before the fetus is determined to be viable, recognized by the medical community as around 24 weeks’ gestation. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states may not place an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Like laws that attempt to ban abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation, bills banning abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat are intended as a direct challenge to these U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Heartbeat ban bills first rose to prominence in Ohio in 2011, where anti-choice activist Janet Porter and her organization Faith2Action sent thousands of heart-shaped balloons to the Ohio statehouse on Valentine’s Day to thank legislators who sponsored HB 125, Ohio’s heartbeat bill. The bill was supported by Porter and her allies, as well as by numerous Republican legislators, led by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon), who sponsored the bill.

Yet not everyone in the anti-choice movement supported the passage of the heartbeat bill. For example, prominent anti-choice activist James Bopp Jr. testified against the bill, expressing concerns that it would provide the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to strengthen Roe v. Wade. Ohio Right to Life, which also opposed the ban, believed that the heartbeat bill would sidetrack other anti-choice bills—like 20-week bans—that had a greater chance of being enacted. Ultimately, the Ohio heartbeat bill failed to pass, but it provided a blueprint for other states attempting to pass similar laws.

Examples of Heartbeat Bans (last updated May 30, 2019)

In 2013, two states ultimately succeeded in passing heartbeat laws. Both Arkansas and North Dakota passed heartbeat ban legislation prohibiting abortion early in the first trimester of pregnancy. Arkansas’ legislation required an abortion provider to use an abdominal ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat and banned abortion when the pregnancy has progressed to 12 weeks and a fetal heartbeat is detected. North Dakota went even further, passing the most stringent anti-choice legislation in the country—a bill that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected using “acceptable medical practice,” which is approximately six weeks through the use of a transvaginal ultrasound.

Both laws were immediately challenged in court and blocked.

In May 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling blocking Arkansas’ law. In January 2016, The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, leaving the Eighth Circuit’s ruling in place.

Similarly, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision blocking North Dakota’s law in July 2015. As with Arkansas’ law, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. The law remains permanently blocked.

In 2016, Ohio was also successful in passing a heartbeat ban. The heartbeat law prohibited any person from knowingly and purposefully performing or inducing an abortion on a pregnant patient with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the “unborn human individual” the pregnant patient was carrying and whose fetal heartbeat had been detected. The bill did not include an exception for cases of rape or incest. Citing previous bans which had been struck down, Gov. Kasich (R) vetoed the legislation. However on the same day, Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law.

Legal setbacks have not stopped anti-choice legislators from persisting in their attempts to pass these laws. During the 2017-2018 legislative sessions, heartbeat bans were introduced in Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and the U.S. Congress.

2018

On May 4, 2018, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed SF 359 into law, prohibiting the performance of an abortion from the time a fetus has a detectable heartbeat. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa filed a lawsuit in state court arguing the law violated the Iowa Constitution. On January 22, 2019, the law was ruled unconstitutional.

On December 12, 2018, Ohio lawmakers passed HB 258, prohibiting the performance of an abortion when a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The bill was amended to clarify that the use of a transvaginal ultrasound to detect the fetal heartbeat would not be required—essentially banning abortion anywhere from 9 to 12 weeks’ gestation (the time at which an abdominal ultrasound can be used to detect a fetal heartbeat). Once again, Gov. John Kasich vetoed the legislation and lawmakers were unable to secure enough votes for an override. In a familiar move, Kasich instead signed a law banning D and E procedures, the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

2019

At least sixteen states (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, LouisianaMaryland, MichiganMinnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) have introduced measures to ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

On March 15, 2019, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed SB 9 into law, making it a felony to perform or induce an abortion when a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The law was immediately challenged and temporarily blocked in federal court.

On March 21, 2019, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed SB 2116 into law, prohibiting the performance of an abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. On March 29, 2019, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Mississippi Center for Justice expanded their current lawsuit against the state’s 15-week ban to include a challenge to the “heartbeat ban.” On May 24, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

On April 11, 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed SB 23 into law, prohibiting a physician from performing or inducing an abortion on a pregnant person when the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. The measure is slated to take effect in July. The ACLU of Ohio is preparing to challenge the law.

On May 7, 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed HB 481, an omnibus abortion bill which—among other things—bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. 

On May 30, 2019, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed SB 184 into law, prohibiting the performance of an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure will only take effect if the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholds Mississippi’s nearly identical law, SB 2116.

Laws

Title Number State Proposed Status
Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act (SB 134) SB 134 Arkansas Jan 28, 2013 Blocked/Enjoined
Texas Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 59) HB 59 Texas Jul 18, 2013 Failed to Pass
North Dakota Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 1456) HB 1456 North Dakota Jan 21, 2013 Blocked/Enjoined
Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 248) HB 248 Ohio Aug 21, 2013 Failed to Pass
Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 125) HB 125 Ohio Feb 24, 2011 Failed to Pass
Ohio Omnibus Abortion Budget Bill (HB 59) HB 59 Ohio Feb 12, 2013 Current
Alabama Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 490) HB 490 Alabama Feb 13, 2014 Failed to Pass
Michigan Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 5643) HB 5643 Michigan Jun 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
Michigan Bill Regarding Sentencing Guidelines Regarding Violations of Heartbeat Ban (HB 5645) HB 5645 Michigan Jun 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
Michigan Bill Regarding Heartbeat Ban Penalty Provision (HB 5644) HB 5644 Michigan Jun 10, 2014 Failed to Pass
Kansas Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 2324) HB 2324 Kansas Feb 13, 2013 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Human Heartbeat Protection Act (S 623) S 623 South Carolina Apr 16, 2013 Failed to Pass
Ohio Bill to Repeal Abortion Restrictions in Budget Bill (HB 280) HB 280 Ohio Oct 2, 2013 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (SB 2807) SB 2807 Mississippi Jan 20, 2014 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (HB 6) HB 6 Mississippi Feb 5, 2013 Failed to Pass
Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act (SB 297) SB 297 Ohio Mar 13, 2014 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Heartbeat Ban (HB 132) HB 132 Kentucky Jan 7, 2014 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Human Heartbeat Protection Act (S 96) S 96 South Carolina Jan 13, 2015 Failed to Pass
Oklahoma Bill Amending Heartbeat Informed Consent Act (SB 606) SB 606 Oklahoma Feb 2, 2015 Failed to Pass
Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 69) HB 69 Ohio Feb 17, 2015 Failed to Pass
New York Fetal Heartbeat Ban (A 3725) A 3725 New York Jan 27, 2015 Failed to Pass
Michigan Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 4241) HB 4241 Michigan Feb 25, 2015 Failed to Pass
Alabama Fetal Heartbeat Act 2015 (HB 405) HB 405 Alabama Apr 2, 2015 Failed to Pass
Kentucky Fetal Heartbeat Bill (HB 132) HB 132 Kentucky Jan 11, 2013 Failed to Pass
New York Fetal Heartbeat Ban (A 8947) A 8947 New York Mar 4, 2014 Failed to Pass
Wyoming Fetal Heartbeat Bill (HB 97) HB 97 Wyoming Jan 25, 2013 Failed to Pass
Alabama Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 21) HB 21 Alabama Feb 2, 2016 Failed to Pass
Alabama Fetal Heartbeat Act 2016 (SB 9) SB 9 Alabama Feb 2, 2016 Failed to Pass
Indiana Heartbeat Bill (SB 144) SB 144 Indiana Jan 5, 2016 Failed to Pass
Indiana Heartbeat Bill (HB 1122) HB 1122 Indiana Jan 7, 2016 Failed to Pass
Oklahoma Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 1118) SB 1118 Oklahoma Feb 1, 2016 Failed to Pass
Ohio Heartbeat Bill (HB 493) HB 493 Ohio Mar 21, 2016 Vetoed
Oklahoma Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 710) SB 710 Oklahoma Feb 6, 2017 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (HB 1198) HB 1198 Mississippi Jan 16, 2017 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (SB 2562) SB 2562 Mississippi Jan 16, 2017 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (SB 2584) SB 2584 Mississippi Jan 16, 2017 Failed to Pass
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Bill (HB 108) HB 108 Tennessee Jan 26, 2017 Current
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB 244) SB 244 Tennessee Jan 31, 2017 Failed to Pass
New York Fetal Heartbeat Ban (A 5384) A 5384 New York Feb 8, 2017 Failed to Pass
Missouri Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB 408) SB 408 Missouri Feb 9, 2017 Failed to Pass
Alabama Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 154) HB 154 Alabama Feb 9, 2017 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Bill (S 467) S 467 South Carolina Feb 23, 2017 Failed to Pass
Michigan Bill Regarding Fetal Heartbeat (HB 4467) HB 4467 Michigan Mar 30, 2017 Failed to Pass
Ohio Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 258) HB 258 Ohio Jun 6, 2017 Vetoed
Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 490) H.R. 490 Federal Jan 12, 2017 Proposed
Missouri Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB 714) SB 714 Missouri Jan 3, 2018 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (SB 2143) SB 2143 Mississippi Jan 9, 2018 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (SB 2058) SB 2058 Mississippi Jan 3, 2018 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Women’s Health Protection and Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 226) HB 226 Mississippi Jan 2, 2018 Failed to Pass
Iowa Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SSB 3143) SSB 3143 Iowa Feb 5, 2018 Proposed
Iowa Heartbeat Protection Act (HF 2163) HF 2163 Iowa Jan 31, 2018 Failed to Pass
Iowa Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SF 2281) SF 2281 Iowa Feb 14, 2018 Failed to Pass
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Bill (SB 1961) SB 1961 Tennessee Jan 29, 2018 Proposed
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Bill (HB 1892) HB 1892 Tennessee Jan 25, 2018 Proposed
Iowa Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SF 359) SF 359 Iowa Feb 27, 2017 Blocked/Enjoined
Pennsylvania Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 2315) HB 2315 Pennsylvania May 2, 2018 Failed to Pass
South Carolina ‘Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act’ (H 5403) H 5403 South Carolina May 9, 2018 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HF 4524) HF 4524 Minnesota May 17, 2018 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SF 4109) SF 4109 Minnesota May 19, 2018 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Medicaid Repealer Bill (HB 1481) HB 1481 Mississippi Jan 15, 2018 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Ban (HB 1509) HB 1509 Mississippi Jan 15, 2018 Failed to Pass
Missouri ‘Stands for the Unborn Act’ (HB 126) HB 126 Missouri Jan 9, 2019 Signed into Law
Missouri Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 139) SB 139 Missouri Jan 9, 2019 Proposed
South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act (S 32) S 32 South Carolina Jan 8, 2019 Proposed
Kentucky Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 100) HB 100 Kentucky Jan 8, 2019 Failed to Pass
South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act (H 3020) H 3020 South Carolina Jan 8, 2019 Proposed
Kentucky Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 9) SB 9 Kentucky Jan 8, 2019 Blocked/Enjoined
Florida Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 235) HB 235 Florida Jan 10, 2019 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 2116) SB 2116 Mississippi Jan 11, 2019 Blocked/Enjoined
Mississippi Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 529) HB 529 Mississippi Jan 15, 2019 Failed to Pass
Mississippi Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 732) HB 732 Mississippi Jan 17, 2019 Failed to Pass
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HF 271) HF 271 Minnesota Jan 22, 2019 Proposed
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 77) HB 77 Tennessee Jan 23, 2019 Proposed
Mississippi Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 2688) SB 2688 Mississippi Jan 21, 2019 Failed to Pass
Missouri Omnibus Abortion Bill (SB 279) SB 279 Missouri Jan 22, 2019 Proposed
Florida Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 792) SB 792 Florida Feb 6, 2019 Failed to Pass
Tennessee Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 1236) SB 1236 Tennessee Feb 7, 2019 Proposed
Maryland Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 933) HB 933 Maryland Feb 8, 2019 Failed to Pass
Maryland ‘Keep Our Hearts Beating Act’ (HB 978) HB 978 Maryland Feb 8, 2019 Failed to Pass
Maryland Fetal Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 1195) HB 1195 Maryland Feb 8, 2019 Failed to Pass
Texas Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 1500) HB 1500 Texas Feb 7, 2019 Proposed
West Virginia Fetal Heartbeat Act (HB 2903) HB 2903 West Virginia Feb 7, 2019 Proposed
West Virginia Heartbeat Abortion Ban and Fetal Tissue Transfer Ban (HB 2915) HB 2915 West Virginia Feb 8, 2019 Proposed
New York Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (A 5389) A 5389 New York Feb 11, 2019 Proposed
Ohio Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 23) SB 23 Ohio Feb 12, 2019 Blocked/Enjoined
Ohio Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 68) HB 680 Ohio Feb 12, 2019 Proposed
Illinois Bill Redefining ‘Viability’ to Include the Existence of a Fetal Heartbeat (HB 2462) HB 2462 Illinois Feb 13, 2019 Proposed
Missouri Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 870) HB 870 Missouri Feb 7, 2019 Proposed
Missouri Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HB 964) HB 964 Missouri Feb 18, 2019 Proposed
Georgia ‘Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act’ (HB 481) HB 481 Georgia Feb 25, 2019 Signed into Law
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SF 869) SF 869 Minnesota Feb 7, 2019 Proposed
Georgia ‘Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act’ (SB 218) SB 218 Georgia Feb 27, 2019 Proposed
Louisiana Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SB 184) SB 184 Louisiana Mar 27, 2019 Signed into Law
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (HF 2101) HF 2101 Minnesota Mar 7, 2019 Proposed
Minnesota Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban (SF 2245) SF 2245 Minnesota Mar 11, 2019 Proposed
Maryland ‘Keep Our Hearts Beating Act’ (SB 1008) SB 1008 Maryland Feb 25, 2019 Failed to Pass
Michigan Bill Requiring Fetal Heartbeat Determination Prior to an Abortion (SB 327) SB 327 Michigan May 16, 2019 Proposed
Michigan ‘Fetal Heartbeat Protection Act’ (HB 4664) HB 4664 Michigan May 23, 2019 Proposed
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines for ‘Fetal Heartbeat Protection Act’ (HB 4665) HB 4655 Michigan May 23, 2019 Proposed
West Virginia ‘Fetal Heartbeat Act’ (SB 606) SB 606 West Virginia Feb 14, 2019 Proposed
Illinois Bill Repealing the ‘Reproductive Health Act’ (HB 3850) HB 3850 Illinois Jun 27, 2019 Proposed
Michigan ‘Fetal Heartbeat Protection Act’ (SB 357) SB 357 Michigan Jun 5, 2019 Proposed
Michigan Sentencing Guidelines for ‘Fetal Heartbeat Protection Act’ (SB 358) SB 358 Michigan Jun 5, 2019 Proposed