Dick Morris: Why Heartbeat Laws are Dangerous for the Pro-Life Movement


The Georgia and Alabama legislatures have just passed laws banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected and providing possible prison sentences for doctors who violate them.

The law won’t take effect until or unless the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade ending federal pre-emption of state legislation on abortion.

But the new laws are already providing talking points for the Democratic Party. Democratic candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hurried to Atlanta to rail against the new law posturing for her pro-choice audience: “I’m going to Atlanta to lead the fight against these unbelievable, draconian inhumane abortion bans.”

She continued her tirade: “As I’ve watched this, I have become more and more concerned that we not only need to shine a light on it and lift up the voices of women who will be impacted, but that I have to lead this fight. So I’m going to take it right to the lion’s gate. I’m going to take it right to the belly of the beast.”

Neither the fetal heartbeat laws nor Gillibrand’s rhetoric against them have any practical impact. The actions of the two states are and will remain purely symbolic as long as Roe is in force.

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But, even though the laws cannot take effect, their political symbolism may drive millions of voters to the Democrats. And the shame of it is that, politically, the fetal heartbeat laws come at a time when Republicans and anti-abortion activists were getting real traction in their stand against late-term abortion.

Tens of millions of Americans who were otherwise moderate on the issue of abortion were repelled by “pro-choice” laws just passed in New York and Virginia permitting late-term “abortions” right up to the moment of birth. Most Americans call that infanticide, not abortion.

The sponsors of the radical leftist legislation in the New York and Virginia legislatures made clear that this form of delivery room murder would now be legal.

Unlike the fetal heartbeat laws, these infanticide statutes are far from symbolic. They take effect immediately and are not dependent on any Supreme Court decision overturning Roe. Live babies will start dying in delivery rooms right away.

Politically, however, these two laws — infanticide and fetal heartbeat — are reciprocal extremes, both reprehensible to mainstream voters. But, since the one nullifies the political impact of the other, they are offsetting.

Fetal heartbeat laws have passed in Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia and have passed one house in Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri.

These states, and others who are considering fetal heartbeat laws, should do the pro-life movement a favor and get out of the way while Republicans skewer Democrats for permitting infanticide.

No matter how deeply legislators in these states may feel about abortion, they should not divert the national debate from an emerging consensus — and universal outrage — against late-term abortion laws. In doing so, they are giving the left cover for their extremist legislation.

When the other side is bent on suicide, its best to give them enough rope.

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Dick Morris is a former adviser to President Bill Clinton as well as a political author, pollster and consultant. His most recent book, "50 Shades of Politics," was written with his wife, Eileen McGann.