News & Politics

Ohio's Legislature Just Sent Kasich a 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill That Could Change Everything

Image via Shutterstock, a 20-week ultrasound.

This week, the Ohio legislature seems primed to deliver two pro-life bills to Governor John Kasich. Each of the bills challenges Roe v. Wade and therefore could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Ohio Statehouse passed a Heartbeat Bill on Wednesday, as part of a child abuse bill. The House passed a separate 20-week abortion ban on Thursday. The Ohio branch of the ACLU has denounced both bills as “unconstitutional” and vowed to sue the state over the Heartbeat Bill, if Ohio Governor John Kasich signs it into law.

“I fully expect an abortion-related case to reach the Supreme Court,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told PJ Media in an interview on Thursday. He said either bill could reach the nation’s highest court, but considered the 20-week ban “the best test case to reach the future court.”

Gonidakis warned that, despite President-elect Donald Trump’s election, the Supreme Court still skews liberal on abortion. “The court is 5-3 right now: five pro-choice votes, three pro-life,” the Right to Life president explained. “Donald Trump winning, that’s a great first step, but we’re going to need a second nominee. I stress that we have to be careful and cautious and strategic — just because trump was elected doesn’t mean the Court is for us.”

If Ohio passes the 20-week ban, it will become the 13th state to do so. The Heartbeat Bill is more unique — only Arkansas and North Dakota have similar laws, and this bill is more explicit about challenging Roe v. Wade.

“Any restriction prior to viability is a challenge to Roe v. Wade,” Gonidakis told PJ Media. The 1973 Supreme Court decision ruled that a fetus is not considered in possession of the right to life until viability — the moment when a baby can survive outside of the womb. In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey defined viability at between 23 and 24 weeks. The 20-week abortion ban would alter this standard, as would the Heartbeat Bill.

Gonidakis said the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are both “confident they can win a heartbeat bill litigation,” but less certain about the 20-week ban, which is why they have not contested it in other states.

John Kasich, whom Gonidakis called “the most pro-life governor in the history of Ohio,” has signed 17 pieces of legislation sponsored by Ohio Right to Life. “No governor in the United States has signed more pro-life laws than John Kasich,” the Right to Life president added. “If history is any indicator of future performance, he’s going to sign the 20-week bill.”

Janet Porter, president and founder of Faith2Action and author of the heartbeat bill, told PJ Media the proposal was “crafted to go to the Supreme Court.” She argued that a baby’s heartbeat is the best measure of life.

“Science has given us a yardstick to measure whether a human being is alive or not, it’s called a heartbeat — it’s an indicator of life,” Porter declared. “We are no longer going to ignore this indicator of life in the very young.” She argued that the current standard of viability is “nebulous,” and should be replaced with “one that is more certain and consistent — one that we use in every other circumstance — the heartbeat of a human being.”

Porter cited a poll saying “no matter where you go in the state, two-thirds of the people in Ohio support this bill.” She described an outpouring of grassroots support, mentioning that in the last 5 days, backers of the heartbeat bill sent 30,000 emails to legislators. “People are excited about the idea of actually protecting babies instead of just regulating abortion,” she declared, adding that she expects Kasich to “listen to the people of the state of Ohio and sign it into law.”

Next Page: But how many babies would the heartbeat bill save?

Lori Viars, board member at Warren County Right to Life, cited Dr. John Willke’s estimate that the heartbeat law “could save as many as 15,000-20,000 unborn babies per year.” In an email statement to PJ Media, Viars declared, “This is a human rights issue; each of those babies deserves to have a birthday!”

Viars insisted that the Supreme Court has been wrong before. “In both the Dred Scott case and Roe the court dehumanized an entire group of people,” she explained. The Ohio heartbeat law “will give the high court the best chance to right a wrong and improve our nation’s human rights record.”

Unlike Gonidakis, Viars was bullish about the law’s chances at the Supreme Court. “Trump’s election was very helpful in passing the bill because now we can expect maybe as many as 2 or 3 new justices on the high court by the time Ohio’s Heartbeat Law makes its way there,” she explained. “That can take several years.”

Viars admitted that the heartbeat bill is an “incremental” bill, “but it’s a huge increment.”

Porter agreed, saying that prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks or as soon as a baby’s heartbeat can be detected would not halt the process of outlawing abortion altogether. “Just as every law we’ve passed — parental consent or a woman’s right to know — does not negate the beginning of life” at conception, neither would these bills.

“If we can’t rescue them all just yet, let’s get every child whose heartbeat we can hear,” Porter declared. “It’s inches away from our goal instead of miles away from our goal, where we currently are now.”

The Faith2Action president attacked abortion as a violation of the Ten Commandments, specifically “Thou shalt not kill.” She quoted Jesus (“if you love me you will keep my commandments”) and James (“faith without action is dead”). Even those who are not Christians should agree that laws against murder are good, Porter added.

For those who do not consider the unborn fully human, she said, “I would refer them to a biology book — this entity with a beating heart that we can hear, with 46 human chromosomes, is a member of the human family.”

Porter ended her interview with a call to action. “If you care about life, no matter where you live, you need to pick up the phone right now,” she said. Governor Kasich’s office number is (614)466-3555.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio did not respond to requests for comment.