Final beats of a political heart

Stefany Quirico

Last Thursday, in a desperate attempt to win support for her flagging presidential campaign, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) introduced a piece of federal legislation that would mandate that women seeking an abortion be exposed to the results of an ultrasound prior to the procedure. The controversial bill is an attempt by Bachmann to shift attention from the economy to social issues.

“In the midst of the number one issue, which is jobs and the economy, we don’t want to forget the issue of life,” Bachmann said at a media even in Iowa. Clearly, as part of the shift in her campaign, the ultrasound bill is strategically aimed at securing the support and votes of conservative, pro-life constituents at a time when Bachmann lags well behind her Republican opponents.

A poll released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard on Monday justifies Bachmann’s desperate attempt to regain strength as a presidential candidate. It indicated that she has only 3 percent of public support and ranks 7th among the Republican candidates. Meanwhile, a Washington Post/Bloomberg poll revealed that Americans believe Bachmann, along with Gov Rick Perry, would do the most harm to the economy if elected president. No wonder Bachmann has shifted her platform from the economy to social issues by endorsing the reinstatement of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and introducing this ultrasound bill in Congress.

“The ‘Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,’ that I introduced today, would require that abortion providers make the unborn child’s heartbeat visible through ultrasound, describe the cardiac activity and make the baby’s heartbeat audible, if the child is old enough for it to be detectable,” Bachmann explained.

If the bill sounds all too familiar, don’t worry, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. The act closely resembles the sonogram law that ignited controversy this summer in Texas. The Texas bill, widely criticized as intrusive and unconstitutional, would have required women undergoing an abortion to be subjected to a sonogram within 24 hours of the procedure. The women would also need to listen to a description of the images and to the fetus’ heartbeat. The Texas bill was signed into a law by pro-life Gov. Rick Perry last May, only to be blocked three months later by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. In his opinion, it would violate the First Amendment by forcing physicians and patients to engage in government-mandated speech. The measure is now under appeal. Meanwhile, Texas is prohibited from enforcing the law.

Given the controversy over the sonogram law in Texas and its ongoing appeal, it is clear that Bachmann’s Heartbeat Informed Consent Act introduced is a dead-end bill that has no chance of becoming a law. The irony is that she has managed to introduce an arguably unconstitutional bill that has no future, but has been so busy with her presidential campaign that she has failed to cast a single vote in Congress since the month of August.

Clearly, the primary concern for Bachmann is not to represent the interest of her constituents, as she has neglected her basic responsibilities as a representative by failing to vote in Congress. Instead, with the “Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,” Bachmann is making her standpoint on the issue of abortion clear and placing her stance on social issues at the center of her campaign in hopes that this will attract the conservative voting population.

Quirico is an economics and international relations junior. 

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Final beats of a political heart