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6 Week Abortion Ban

Written by Jessica Engelking and graphics by Tobias-Ana Soudaly-Espinosa

The Iowa Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of a law banning abortion after six weeks. Six weeks is when cardiac activity can be detected, and laws enforcing these cutoffs are called Heartbeat laws. We’d like to address a couple issues surrounding the six week ban that some people might not be aware of.


The age of a pregnancy is measured from the first day of a woman’s period so the countdown starts before conception. If you hear “six week ban” and think that six weeks is plenty of time to decide to have an abortion, please understand that the six-week clock does not start when you find out you’re pregnant. By the time you miss a period, you’re already four weeks pregnant. If your period is sporadic for any number of reasons, like stress, you might not realize you’re pregnant until you’re five or six weeks pregnant. To understand what this law does, it’s so important that people are aware that the “six weeks” in six week bans is a measurement of gestational age, which means that people are at about week two before they even conceive. Six weeks is important because that’s the earliest that cardiac activity can be detected, which brings us to the next point.


At six weeks pregnant (four weeks developmentally), the embryo develops a tube that generates electrical impulses. The machine picks up these pulses and then creates the “heartbeat” sound. What you hear when you listen to whooshing and dub-dubbing is not the amplification of lil tiny baby heartbeats, but sounds that the machine makes to create the illusion of listening to a heartbeat. The dub-dub we hear when we listen to a heartbeat through a stethoscope is created by the opening and shutting of valves, which a six-week embryo (which is actually a four week embryo) doesn’t even have. When people talk about the “fetal heartbeat” in the efforts to ban abortion access, it should be known that the “heartbeat” is actually a sound from the machine that creates the illusion of a heartbeat. 

At the time of posting, the 6 week abortion ban is still pending in the Iowa Supreme Court. With the vast amount of medical misinformation already on the internet, it’s crucial that people understand how misinformation is manipulating facts to ultimately take away our rights.


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