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Abbott's ascendancy puts women's choice at risk

By Jennifer Wilson - posted Thursday, 27 October 2011

US Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann started her campaign as the Tea Party Queen, promising fiscal conservatism and an end to "Obamacare," otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that in 2010 extended health care insurance to some 30 million Americans, arousing the fury of many who feared it was an indicator of what they allege is President Obama's destructive inclination towards socialism.

Bachmann describes herself as a social conservative who believes that wives must be submissive to their husbands. She is the mother of five children, and appears to be of the opinion that it is virtuous to produce large families. She is a graduate of the Oral Roberts University, a Christian college where she studied tax law at the insistence of her husband, and where she learned that Christian morality is the basis

of US law.


The term "social conservative" is considered by some in the US blogosphere to be code for evangelical Christian or Christian conservatism. Bachmann believes that what the US needs now is a marriage between fiscal and social conservatism, a marriage that she is attempting to contrive as the Tea Party's apparent willingness to risk national default in the pursuit of their political goals saw some of their supporters take a set against them, and against Bachmann herself. Bachmann's fortunes also took a turn for the worse when Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Presidential race. In an effort to regain ground, Bachmann is now appealing directly to evangelical Christians, and focusing her efforts on gaining the support of conservative Christian voters.

The Heartbeat Informed Consent Act

To this end, Congresswoman Bachmann has proposed a bill in the US House of Representatives known as the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. This is federal legislation that would require pregnant women to have ultrasounds, and be shown pictures of the foetus they are carrying before an abortion could be performed.

The Act also requires that doctors be required by federal law to capture the sound of the feotal heartbeat and play it to the pregnant woman, before an abortion can legally be performed.

Penalties for abortions carried out without observance of these proposed laws are fines of $100,000 for the first offence, and $250,000 for repeat offences.

The premise on which the proposed bill is based is that a woman is far less likely to go through with an abortion if she sees the foetus, and hears the heartbeat. To this end, the proposed legislation requires that ultrasound pictures "accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs, if present."


Right-to-lifers have apparently given up attempting outright to have all abortion criminalized. Instead they are adopting a back door approach that seeks to move the permissible time frame to when the foetal heartbeat can be detected, thus legally redefining "life." The heartbeat can be heard as early as eighteen days, and in Ohio, for example, the state version of the "Heartbeat Bill" proposes that all abortion is outlawed after a heartbeat is detected.

There is little likelihood of Bachmann's federal bill getting past the Senate, and President Obama has let it be known that in the event that it does, he will veto it. However, a very similar piece of legislation known as the Informed Consent Bill is now being advocated in every US state, by anti abortion groups who are aware that Bachmann's bill won't be legislated at the federal level. At the state level this bill is backed by major conservative groups such as National Right to Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B Anthony's List, and Family Research Council Action. In some states the bill stands a good chance of becoming law. In Rick Perry's Texas for example, the bill has passed through two readings and requires only one more.

The Protect Life Act

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About the Author

Dr Jennifer Wilson worked with adult survivors of child abuse for 20 years. On leaving clinical practice she returned to academia, where she taught critical theory and creative writing, and pursued her interest in human rights, popular cultural representations of death and dying, and forgiveness. Dr Wilson has presented papers on human rights and other issues at Oxford, Barcelona, and East London Universities, as well as at several international human rights conferences. Her academic work has been published in national and international journals. Her fiction has also appeared in several anthologies. She is currently working on a secular exploration of forgiveness, and a collection of essays. She blogs at

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