Ohio’s “heartbeat bill,” which would have prohibited killing unborn children with a detectable heartbeat, went down in flames on Thursday after the Senate failed by one vote to override Gov. Kasich’s heartless veto of the bill.
The bill passed both chambers earlier this month — the House by a comfortable majority and the Senate 18-13 — but Kasich followed through on his promise to veto the bill. In Ohio, a three-fifths majority is required to override a veto, which meant that two additional votes were needed in the Senate.
The Ohio House voted earlier today to override Kasich’s veto 61-28, but the measure came up one vote short in the Senate, which voted 19-13 against the override. Sen. Frank LaRose, who was absent for the vote on the bill earlier this month, voted to override, but GOP Sen. Bill Beagle, who voted for the heartbeat bill, inexplicably defected, crossing the aisle to side with Democrats, Kasich, and Planned Parenthood, all of whom had campaigned vigorously against protecting the lives of unborn children. Beagle was joined by four Republicans — John Eklund, Matt Dolan, Stephanie Kunze, and Gayle Manning — to block the override attempt.
Passage of Sub HB 258 would mean that “no person shall knowingly and purposefully perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human individual the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected.” Doctors who violate the law would be guilty of a fifth-degree felony. There are no penalties in the bill for women who choose to kill their babies. The law, if passed, would allow exceptions for procedures that are “designed or intended to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” That language ensures that doctors would not be able to flaut the law by claiming a pregnancy would threaten the mental health of the mother.
The Senate stripped from the bill a requirement that a woman seeking an abortion must have a transvaginal ultrasound performed — which can detect a heartbeat as early as 5 1/2 weeks — in order to determine the gestational age of the child. The amended version requires only an abdominal ultrasound, which usually can detect a heartbeat at around 6-7 weeks gestation.
The language of the bill, which had 53 co-sponsors in the House and nine in the Senate, explains that a fetal heartbeat “has become a key medical predictor that an unborn human individual will reach live birth.” Cardiac activity, the bill says, “begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time, normally when the fetal heart is formed in the gestational sac.” The life-affirming language codifies into law the humanity of unborn children, much to the credit of Ohio lawmakers.
Citizens for Community Values, an enthusiastic supporter of the heartbeat bill, lamented the failure to override Kasich’s veto and blasted Beagle for betraying the pro-life movement.
“After a monumental effort by the pro-life community to override Gov. Kasich’s veto of the Heartbeat Bill (HB 258) in the Ohio House, Ohio was on the brink of enacting this life-saving bill. Yet at the last moment, one Ohio Senator flipped his vote, and the Heartbeat Bill came up 1 vote short in the State Senate,” CCV president Aaron Baer said in a written statement.
“Senator Bill Beagle (R-Montgomery, Preble, and Montgomery) voted to give lawmakers like himself a pay raise, but not to save thousands of Ohio lives every year,” Baer wrote. “It is inexcusable how Beagle could vote for the Heartbeat bill in the Senate Health committee, and on the Senate floor the first time, then change his vote at the last minute. He also gave no warning to the bill’s sponsors or proponents that he changed his mind.”
Baer thanked Senate President Larry Obhoff, Speaker Ryan Smith, and the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Christina Hagan and Ron Hood, for their support.
“The pro-life movement will carry on for another day. Thankfully, Ohio has true pro-life champions coming into the Governor’s office in the DeWine/Husted administration. Our call to state legislative leadership is to not delay in 2019. The times are urgent, and we must enact this bill as soon as possible,” said Baer.
The current heartbeat bill is now dead, and in order for the measure to be considered again, it would have to be reintroduced and make its way through the long process of committee hearings, floor votes, and reconciliation. Mike DeWine, the incoming governor, has vowed to sign the bill if it comes to his desk.
Baer vowed that CCV would to continue the fight to protect unborn children. “We are not going anywhere until the job is done.”
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