On Thursday, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar and 17 of their 19 children joined Ohio legislators and pro-life advocates at a press conference reintroducing the Ohio Human Heartbeat Protection Act, known as the Heartbeat Bill. The bill’s primary sponsor, 24-year-old Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance), said, “We’re ready to light the fire again and we’re ready to go to battle and fight for what is most important in the world, and that is life. We’re not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
The bill, with 40 co-sponsors, would ban all abortions after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, making it the strictest abortion law in the nation. A similar bill passed the House in 2011 but died in the Senate last session when Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-Richmond) refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. Since then, Arkansas and North Dakota passed similar laws, which were promptly blocked by federal judges. Many expect the North Dakota law to ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
Co-sponsor Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) thinks that a growing list of state Heartbeat Bills could put pressure on the courts. “I don’t think the justices of the Supreme Court are immune to public opinion.” When asked why they are going through this again, Wachtmann says, “In America, it’s always a great day to work to save more babies.”
Michelle Duggar, mother of the brood from the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, said, “If the powers that be do not vote to support life, then they need to be replaced by those who will.” Among the 19 Duggar kids in attendance was 4-year-old Josie, who was born prematurely at 25 weeks, weighing only 1 pound 6 ounces. In many states it is legal to abort a baby after 24-weeks gestation. Jim Bob Duggar worked to help pass the Heartbeat Bill in the family’s home state of Arkansas.
One major obstacle to the bill has been Ohio Right to Life, which is closely aligned with the Ohio Republican Party. They say if such a law makes its way to the Supreme Court it could obliterate restrictions already in place in the state. Ohio Right to Life Chairman Mike Gonidakis had not seen the new legislation (which is not yet available online) and declined to take a position, but said they will focus on adoption in the next session of the General Assembly. “The only thing we’re going to talk about is adoption reform until it’s done,” Gonidakis said. “There’s no other initiative we see right now that we will be engaged in other than adoption reform.” He added that the state passed five pro-life laws and closed three abortion clinics in the state over the past few months.
Governor Kasich, who was elected by a narrow margin with the help of pro-life activists, has refused to take a position on the bill. Kasich’s spokesman, Rob Nichols, gave his standard answer when asked about the legislation: “While the governor is pro-life and believes strongly in the sanctity of human life, we don’t take a public position on every bill introduced in the General Assembly.”
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, complained that a court battle would cost the state millions of dollars and would further infringe on the rights of women. “Here we go again. Just one month ago Governor Kasich enacted one of the worst anti-choice laws in the country,” Copeland said. “That legislation is forcing the closure of abortion care facilities, defunds family planning providers, and tells doctors how they have to practice medicine.”
“Did you really think we were going to give up?” asked Faith2Action President Janet Porter.
On the issue of legal costs if the law is challenged, the room erupted with applause when Rep. Wachtmann said that the cost was not too high to preserve human lives. “It’s one of the greatest values of expenditures we’ve ever had.”
Rep. Hagan, who at one point in the press conference scooped up her red-haired nephew who toddled up to the podium, acknowledge the uphill battle: “While it may be controversial and may be difficult as the youngest member in this House and the youngest female to ever serve in this House, to stand on this issue, it’s the right thing to do.”
In the spirit of the new modern feminist movement, Hagan defied those who would minimize the voices of conservative women. “I believe when Susan B. Anthony was fighting for a woman’s rights she was fighting for much more than we can understand and I believe that the message has been misconstrued. Every woman’s voice matters, even if that woman is standing for life. And I am here today for the child with no voice to say there is viability where a heartbeat can be detected.”