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Ohio Heartbeat Bill Backers Confident of Supreme Court Victory

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is joined by state budget director Tim Keen, left, state House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, center left, and state Senate President Larry Obhof during an April 13, 2017, news conference in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth)

Ohio Republican Rep. Christina Hagan is hoping the fourth time will be the charm for legislation that would stop a woman’s request for an abortion the instant doctors detect a fetal heartbeat.

Hagan reintroduced the legislation June 6, only six months after Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the Heartbeat Bill that was approved by the Republican-dominated legislature in 2016.

Proponents of the Heartbeat Bill were able to win approval in the Ohio House the first time they introduced it, only to watch the proposal die in the Senate. The second attempt didn’t get any further, but the third time the legislation was introduced it made it all the way to Kasich’s desk where he used line-item veto power to squash the proposal.

Hagan told the Columbus Dispatch she wasn’t about to let a little thing like three defeats stop her from making a fourth try.

“I believe that children with beating hearts deserve protection in the state of Ohio, and we should work toward that effort regardless of what the political climate ever looks like,” she said. “You can’t get distracted by variables you can’t control.”

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, called the Heartbeat Bill “unconstitutional” when the Ohio Legislature approved it last year.

“This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” Copeland said. “Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable.”

Gov. Kasich has not commented on the reintroduction of the Heartbeat Bill.

However, when he vetoed the proposal in 2016, he agreed with Copeland that “certain provisions…are contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion.”

Kasich warned in his veto message that federal courts were bound to follow the Supreme Court’s rulings so the legislation would have to be struck down.

“The State of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers,” Kasich wrote.

“Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life,” Kasich added.

However, the Lima News editorialized that HB 258 was worth fighting for because it was a “gold standard for identifying the start and stop of life.”

“We can’t let Ohio’s politicians off this easy. They should do the hard things because they’re worthwhile, even if it might lead to a Supreme Court case,” the editorial read.

Molly Smith, the executive director of Cleveland Right to Life, told the Church Militant that two groups usually on the side of those opposing abortions lobbied Kasich to veto the bill last year.

Smith said Ohio Right to Life and the Catholic Bishops of Ohio were against the legislation because of fears, expressed by Kasich in his veto message, that a court defeat would make it easier for pro-choice attorneys to win rulings against other Ohio abortion restrictions.

However, Smith said Heartbeat Bill advocates had worked carefully with constitutional lawyers to create a bill that would survive a Supreme Court test.

Smith said proponents know Kasich is correct. The law, if he signs it, will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court. But she stressed the timing for this legislation couldn’t be better if only because that by the time it gets to the Supreme Court President Trump may have appointed one or two new justices.

“This was our opportunity to do this. It would have had to go through the process — it’s a slow process — by the time we got this to [the] Supreme Court, we would have had the courts the way we needed them,” Smith said.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R), a co-sponsor of House Bill 258, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the legislation come to the House floor for a vote, again.

Although Hagan wants her proposal to become law, she also said it helps to have the debate heard.

“Every time we have the discussion about the validity of the child in the womb,” Hagan said, “I believe we save lives.”