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Doctors refute Stacey Abrams' claim there is 'no such thing' as fetal heartbeat at 6 weeks

Stacey Abrams
Georgia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams speaks during a campaign rally on March 14, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia. |

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is being accused of spreading "misinformation" after she stated this week that the unborn do not have a heartbeat at six weeks gestation, despite evidence from medical journals.

During an event at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, Abrams asserted that "there is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks," adding that she believed the sound of a fetal heartbeat at that stage is "manufactured" to convince people that men have a right to "control" women's bodies. 

Abrams' comments were in response to Georgia's heartbeat bill, also known as the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act. She claimed the legislation shouldn't be called a "Fetal Heartbeat Bill" because "that's medically false, biologically a lie."

The bill bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat becomes detectable but includes exceptions for rape, incest, or if the mother's life is in danger or the fetus is unviable. 

The law was passed in 2019, but a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, returning authority over abortion laws to the states, a federal appeals court overturned the lower court ruling on July 20, allowing the law to go into effect. 

Dr. Donna Harrison, CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization that boasts over 7,000 pro-life doctors, disagreed with Abrams.

In a Friday statement to The Christian Post, Harrison stated that Abrams' claims are an example of "misinformation" that ignores evidence from "basic embryology." 

"In fact, at six weeks' gestation, the embryonic heart rhythmically contracts to pump blood through its arteries, which flows to the placenta to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen," she wrote.

"To call this anything other than a beating heart is dishonest, and serves only to dehumanize preborn people. ... Playing semantics with the definition of a heart does nothing to serve science or the public, but rather only advances a pro-abortion agenda." 

Tara Sander Lee, the director of Life Sciences at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute who studied heart development at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement that the human heart starts beating 22 days after fertilization. 

"A baby's heart is actively beating at six weeks gestation and will have already beat nearly 16 million times by 15 weeks," said Lee. "In fact, at six weeks, when Stacey Abrams says a heartbeat doesn't exist, that baby's heart is actually beating at about 110 beats per minute (bpm)." 

Lee cited peer-reviewed research published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine titled "The Transitional Heart: From Early Embryonic and Fetal Development to Neonatal Life." 

Another study, published in October 2019 by the Department of Radiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, also affirmed that cardiac activity begins as early as six weeks gestation. In addition, the absence of a detectable heartbeat is a sign of pregnancy failure, according to the study. 

"Most American parents have seen their baby's beating heart during prenatal ultrasound and discussed it with their obstetrician," she continued. 

"The mainstream media can perform Olympic-level semantics gymnastics all they want, but most Americans instinctively understand that a developing human organ which beats rhythmically and pumps blood throughout the body is, in fact, a heart."

As The National Review reported in February, up until recently, Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, stated on its webpage that a "very basic beating heart and circulatory system develop" during the fifth to sixth week of pregnancy. Now, the website states that at five to six weeks, "[a] part of the embryo starts to show cardiac activity."

"It sounds like a heartbeat on an ultrasound, but it's not a fully-formed heart — it's the earliest stage of the heart developing," the website states. 

According to a Monmouth University Poll conducted Sept. 15-19, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp holds a slight lead over Abrams, with 49% of respondents saying they will "definitely" or "probably" vote for him, versus 45% saying they will "definitely" or "probably" vote for her. 

The same poll found that 46% of respondents will "definitely not" vote for Abrams, versus 37% who said they will "definitely not" vote for Kemp. 

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