Rich Lowry: Tiny humans with heartbeats should be protected by law

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, center, signs legislation, Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Atlanta, banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks before many women know they’re pregnant. Kemp said he was signing the bill “to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state.” (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Lysistrata, the character from the Aristophanes play of the same name, declared a sex strike to try to stop a devastating war in ancient Greece.

Alyssa Milano, the actress and political activist, declared a sex strike to try to stop Georgia from protecting unborn children in the womb.

The state just passed and signed into law a so-called heartbeat bill to outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. This led Milano to conclude that women can't risk pregnancy until further notice, and must stop having sex, at least stop having sex with "cis men."

It’s apparently never occurred to Milano that women, not just cis men, support pro-life legislation, and that unborn babies are both boys and girls. In her fictional cause, Lysistrata had mercy and humanity on her side. Milano has neither, although her lack of seriousness makes her a perfect spokesperson for the backlash against the Georgia bill.

It is one of a spate of heartbeat bills around the nation that are sure to get enjoined in the courts, but have highlighted the hysterical opposition to the idea that a tiny human being with a heartbeat should be afforded protection under the law.

Georgia has come under Hollywood pressure, and not just from the latter-day Lysistrata. Fifty actors and actresses signed an open letter against the law several weeks before it passed. The missive included the condescending line that these worthies find Georgia's restaurants and hotels "to be comfortable and of a high quality." The state's determination to protect the unborn, on the other hand, is completely unacceptable. The signatories thundered that should the heartbeat law pass, "we will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women."

It's always amusing to get a lecture about the interests of women from representatives of an industry that produced and shielded so many predatory creeps for so long, but Hollywood hasn't let its own sins stop its nonstop hectoring of everyone else.

The left-wing trope online — repeated by multiple news outlets — is that the Georgia bill would give women life in prison if they have an abortion. This is a stupid lie. The relevant section of Georgia abortion law makes it clear that it applies to third parties, and has been interpreted as such by the Georgia courts. Nor does it call for life imprisonment of anyone.

The common arguments against restrictions on abortion are that they infringe on women's health and bodies. But the vast majority of abortions are made out of discretionary choice, not medical necessity. And the heartbeat bills underline how another body is involved in the equation.

An appendix or a kidney doesn't have its own separate heartbeat. The pro-abortion case is that a fetus is a blob of cells of no account — with a heartbeat. That the fetus is a non-human being — with a heartbeat. That the fetus isn't truly alive — but has a heartbeat.

The heartbeat bills, even if blocked by the courts, have an educative effect. Most people don't realize how soon a fetal heartbeat begins — around six weeks into a pregnancy. The pro-life bumper sticker "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" isn't just a slogan, but a fact.

As a pro-life tactic to get a test case in front of the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the heartbeat bills may be lacking. Chief Justice John Roberts is cautious and unlikely to use a sweeping piece of pro-life legislation to overturn Roe, if he is inclined that way at all.

But the heartbeat bills show, despite the Supreme Court's effort to stifle it, that the debate over abortion policy in the United States is still very real. The pro-life movement has survived setbacks in the Supreme Court, the disdain of the country's cultural elite and predictions of its inevitable demise.

Somehow, it will survive Alyssa Milano's sex strike as well.

Rich Lowry Courtesy photo

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. comments.lowry@nationalreview.com