Ohio state lawmakers are trying once again to shake the foundation of Roe v. Wade by protecting unborn babies from abortion after their heartbeats can be heard, typically at six to eight weeks’ gestation.
The Ohio House on Thursday passed a bill that would penalize anyone who performed an abortion on a baby with a detectable heartbeat. Abortionists violating the law could face a fifth-degree felony charge, the potential for up to one year in prison, and a $2,500 fine. The bill includes an exception for “substantial and irreversible” physical threat to the mother.
State Rep. Christina Hagan, a Republican who sponsored the bill, told WYTV in Youngstown that lawmakers drafted the legislation in direct opposition to Roe v. Wade: “Our intention is to go directly to the heart of Roe v. Wade and to challenge the question of when a life begins in the United States and when their constitutional protection is due to them.” Hagan, whose newborn twin sons were by her side during floor debate, added, “We know when a heartbeat stops that we have a lost a human life.”
This is not the first time lawmakers have attempted to pass the pro-life legislation. A similar bill cleared the House and Senate in December 2016, but Gov. John Kasich vetoed it, arguing it would not survive a court challenge. He instead signed a law protecting the unborn from abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. The heartbeat bill this time cleared the House by a vote of 60-35. A total of 60 votes in the House and 20 votes in the Senate are needed to override the governor’s veto.
Kasich said he would veto the bill again should it pass the state Senate. And if the state legislature doesn’t garner the necessary votes to override him, lawmakers will have to wait until the next session to take another crack at it. But that will be after Republican Gov.-elect Mike DeWine takes office, who has said he would sign such a bill.
Similar heartbeat bills have passed in North Dakota and Arkansas, but federal courts ruled them unconstitutional. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court’s decision to block North Dakota’s heartbeat bill.
Iowa is the only state with a current heartbeat abortion protection law, which is facing a court challenge from Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. A county judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect until the suit is settled.
Ohio Right to Life said it was neutral on the heartbeat bill. In 2016, the organization lobbied instead for protection against abortion at 20 weeks, expressing concerns that a heartbeat bill would not hold up in court. The 20-week marker is based on when an unborn baby feels pain. Similar laws have been enacted in 21 states.