Because the bill defines a fetus as “a human being…regardless of viability” its sponsors resisted attempts, by Republican as well as Democratic senators, to allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
The law will be struck down in the courts, just as heartbeat bills have been elsewhere, most recently in Kentucky and Iowa. Similar laws passed earlier this year Mississippi and in Georgia will meet the same fate, as will several more making their way through state legislatures if they become law. That is the purpose of extreme abortion laws—to prompt legal cases in the hope that one might come before the new conservative majority at the Supreme Court, which will use it to overturn Roe.
Until recently anti-abortionists were engaged in a stealthier battle. Rather than challenging Roe directly they chiselled away, introducing state-level regulations so burdensome that clinics were forced to close. As social conservatives retreated in the culture war over gay marriage, they advanced over abortion. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 400 abortion restrictions were introduced across America—more than a third of the total since 1973, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Eight states have only one abortion clinic left.
Mr Trump’s appointment of two conservative Supreme Court justices has emboldened some pro-lifers to adopt a more aggressive strategy. Their hopes of directly overturning Roe were boosted on May 13th when the justices voted 5-4 along ideological lines to overturn a 40-year-old precedent in a case unrelated to abortion.