The woman behind the “heartbeat” abortion bans passed in Georgia, Alabama and a half-dozen other states said Wednesday she expects additional legislatures and maybe the U.S. Congress to follow.
“There will be more,” Janet Porter told the Daily Report as she prepared to board a flight late Wednesday. “Just watch.”
Porter said the movement she started nine years ago has moved beyond her.
“It’s got a life of its own now,” she said. “What I believe has happened is, there has been a shift.”
Asked if the shift is the addition of two new conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, she said that’s part of it—but not all. She believes people are moved by the visual image of a beating heart. And they’re accustomed to seeing heart monitors in hospitals. It’s easy to associate a heartbeat with life. “People get it,” she said.
“It puts those who oppose it in a very bad light,” Porter said. “The people fighting it are the flat-earthers.”
Banning abortion as soon as a doctor can pick up a pea-sized embryonic pulse with an internal vaginal ultrasound is not really what Porter wants. She wants to end all legal abortion.
Porter said she became an anti-abortion activist when she was in the 10th grade at her suburban Cleveland high school. She heard two opposing speakers. The one that moved her showed a picture of what he said were “babies in a Hefty bag” from abortions. That image stayed with her. As a teen she began attending anti-abortion events. “I dragged my mother along,” she recalled. “I was the shy kid. But saving babies mattered more than my fear of public speaking.”
She eventually became legislative director of Ohio Right to Life, successfully lobbying for restrictions—including waiting periods, parental consent and a ban on late term procedures. Then she began thinking about using another powerful visual image—a heartbeat—and how to use it to stop nearly all abortions.
She said God gave her the idea for a heartbeat bill in 2010. She enlisted lawyers to help her write it. The model bill is available on the website of the network she founded, Faith2Action. She has been lobbying for it ever since. She started in her home state of Ohio. After battling through the legislature, former Gov. John Kasich Jr. vetoed the bill—repeatedly. But it passed again with a new governor. Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law this year.
Also this year, Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia passed their own versions of six-week abortion bans. Arkansas passed the bill in 2013, and Iowa followed in 2018. The earlier laws have been blocked by the courts.
Alabama has gone a step further, banning all abortions. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the ban Wednesday.
“I like their bill better than mine,” Porter said.
Alabama followed Porter’s lead in refusing exceptions for abortion in the case of rape or incest. Whatever the narrative of conception, the result is “no less human, no less worthy of protection,” she said.
Porter said that, based on what she’s hearing from her network’s sources, she expects Missouri to be the next state to pass an abortion restriction, then possibly South Carolina and Tennessee. And she said a federal heartbeat bill has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 20-week abortion ban—similar to the one already on the books in Georgia—that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, introduced again this year doesn’t go nearly far enough for Porter.
“We have gone from regulating abortion to ending it,” Porter said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
All the new abortion measures face certain legal challenges. Lawyers are at work on them at this moment. That, too, pleases Porter.
“This bill was crafted to be the arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade,” Porter said. “This bill was born to go to court.”