Ohio Republicans Not So Sure on Bill to Ban Abortion at First Heartbeat
Prospects for Ohio legislation that could outlaw abortions after six weeks of pregnancy do not look good in the Ohio Senate and even gloomier should the bill wind up on Republican Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
Even for the emotional topic of abortion, this debate turned unusually white hot in March. It has roiled Ohio politics, pushing Republicans, who can usually be counted on to vote pro-life, to the side of Democrats, albeit for reasons of pragmatism rather than theology or philosophy.
It also pushed a Democrat to take to the Ohio House floor to tell, for the first time ever, the story of being raped, impregnated by her attacker, and deciding to abort the baby that was growing inside her womb.
House Bill 69, also known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” was approved by the Ohio House in late March. Sponsored by Rep. Christina Hagan (R) and Rep. Ron Hood (R), the legislation seeks to prevent the abortions of Ohio babies beginning with their first detectable heartbeat.
A fetal heartbeat could be audible at or soon after six weeks.
“As Ohio continues to lead in many areas, ultimately aiming to improve the quality of life for Ohioans in any way we can, we have also worked diligently to defend the lives of the unborn,” said Hagan. “Needless to say, this is an issue that is robust with passion, compassion and the potential to save many lives of the unborn.”
HB 69 generally prohibits a person from knowingly and purposefully performing or inducing an abortion with the specific intent of causing the termination of life of an unborn child whose fetal heartbeat has been detected, making this offense a fifth-degree felony.
“Someone has to speak on behalf of the more than 57 million unborn US children who have been legally killed since 1973, and the millions more who will die if elected leaders don’t stand in the gap for them,” said Hood. “It is my prayer that this bill will encourage the culture of life to continue to grow.”
The legislation would create a Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion and Support, composed of three House and three Senate members, to help encourage adoption in the cases of unwanted pregnancies.
However, HB 69 might not even get a hearing in the Ohio Senate.
Both Gov. Kasich and Senate President Keith Faber (R) have expressed concerns over whether the bill would even be constitutional.
Democrat Rep. Michael Curtin said during the debate that House members had heard expert testimony of cases in which fetuses were “not viable” after six weeks for a variety of medical reasons.
He argued the Heartbeat Bill was “profound legislation,” which would be an abuse of power if approved.
“This proposed law would use the strong arm of the state, the strong arm of government to force a woman to carry a non-viable fetus to term,” he said.
However, the most emotional objection to HB 69, which supporters say would stop 90 percent of all abortions in Ohio, came from Rep. Teresa Fedor (D).
She told her fellow lawmakers of being sexually assaulted, becoming pregnant and then undergoing an abortion.
“You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice,” Fedor said on the floor of the House.
“What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long. I dare any one of you to judge me. I dare you to walk in my shoes.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported even Ohio Right to Life leaders have spoken out against the legislation because of fears pro-choice forces could use it to go before a federal judge and argue for a reversal of all abortion restrictions in Ohio.
Gov. Kasich shares Right to Life’s concerns about the possibility of litigation.
“But it’s a long way to Tipperary,” Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch. “The House is not the Senate and it’s not through, so I like not to comment too much on pending legislation.”
The Heartbeat Bill is not the only legislation before the Ohio Legislature that would add new restrictions on abortions.
Right to Life’s premier legislation for 2015 known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was also introduced in the Ohio Legislature in March.
"The Hippocratic oath says, first do no harm," said Rep. Kristina Roegner (R), who sponsored HB 117 with her fellow Republican Rep. Bob Cupp.
"I would think everyone could agree to err on the side of caution, in light of the overwhelming scientific evidence, when it comes to the question of whether a five-month pre-born baby can feel pain."
This is legislation Right to Life not only backs, it is legislation Right to Life drafted.
Pain-Capable legislation was introduced in the Ohio House and Senate in March with 33 lawmakers co-sponsoring the companion proposals, HB 117 and SB 127.
"The outpouring of support that we have received for this legislation goes to show that Ohio is ready and eager to catch up with the rest of the developed world by affirming the humanity of the unborn," said Stephanie Ranade-Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life.
"We are hopeful that with this legislation we will be able to welcome more and more voices into our movement, showing that the right to life really is a bipartisan issue that everyone has a stake in."