Women's Rights

Ohio Lawmakers Plan to Present Fetal Heartbeat Bill

COLUMBUS, OH – The GOP-controlled Ohio House of Representatives is poised to approve a controversial proposal to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected on Thursday – even though Gov. John Kasich has vetoed it before.

The so-called “heartbeat bill” would penalize doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, sometimes as early as six weeks gestation. Anyone who performed an abortion after that point could face a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to a year in prison.

Kasich has already vetoed the heartbeat bill once, and he’ll do it again if GOP lawmakers send the proposal his way.

There are some exceptions: an abortion would be permitted if it would keep the pregnant woman from dying or suffering a “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Doctors could also perform an abortion if a medical emergency prevents a fetal heartbeat from being detected.

If approved by the House, the bill would need approval from the Senate before heading to Kasich.

When Kasich vetoed the bill in December 2016, he argued that the heartbeat bill was “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion.” He instead signed into law a ban on abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

Courts have rejected similar proposals in other states. In spring 2015, the Eighth District Court of Appeals halted a heartbeat bill in Arkansas. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear that case. North Dakota spent $491,016 defending its ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – a 2013 law that was ultimately rejected in court, according to the Associated Press. And an Iowa ban was set to take effect July 1, but it was stalled by a legal challenge there.

Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, said he’s optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule differently with the addition of two conservative justices appointed by President Donald Trump.

“I am very confident that we would have a favorable ruling,” Hood said.

Governor-elect Mike DeWine, also a Republican, doesn’t share Kasich’s concerns about the anti-abortion measure. He promised to sign the heartbeat bill after taking office next year.

“I will sign the bill,” DeWine said in a gubernatorial debate. “I have said that many times.”

The heartbeat bill has divided even anti-abortion advocates. Ohio Right to Life isn’t advocating for the bill, but groups such as Faith 2 Action and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati support it.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland opposes the proposed ban on these abortions, saying it would damage the doctor-patient relationship.

“This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians,” Copeland said. “Banning women from getting a medical procedure is dangerous, out of touch with Ohio values, and is completely unacceptable.”

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