After months of dithering, the Republican-controlled Ohio House finally brought the “Heartbeat Bill,” HB 125, to a vote on the House floor. Introduced by Rep. Lynn Watchmann (R-Napoleon) and with 48 co-sponsors, House members approved the bill with a 54-43 vote today. The bill, which could be the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Doctors would be required to perform an ultrasound before an abortion is performed and if a fetal heartbeat is detected (usually around 6-7 weeks of gestation) the physician would be required to cancel the abortion. The penalty for violating the law could be loss of the right to practice medicine in Ohio (no penalties for the mother).
(E)(1) Except as provided in division (E)(2) or (3) of this section, no person shall knowingly perform an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected according to the requirements of division (C) of this section.
The law does not ban the use of the abortion pill and there is an exception to save the life of the mother. In a first for the Ohio legislature (and possibly any legislature), during a House sub-committee meeting in March, two unborn babies “testified.” Two pregnant mothers were given ultrasounds and committee members were able to “see” and hear the fetal heartbeats.
In addition to the heartbeat language, the bill also has a strong affirmation of the personhood of the unborn:
(10) “Unborn human individual” means an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.
The bill faces a steeper challenge in the 23-10 GOP-controlled senate and pro-life governor John Kasich has not said if he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Still, this is a significant step. It has overcome opposition from Ohio Right To Life Executive Director Mike Gonidakis, who has opposed several members of his own board, including Julie Busby and Dr. Jack Willke (founder of National Right to Life), fearing that court challenges to the Heartbeat Bill will overturn other pro-life protections in the state.
If this becomes law in Ohio, court challenges will follow. Of course, the appellate process could take years and no one can predict what the make up of the Supreme Court will be. It is a worthwhile effort and a risk worth taking to protect the unborn. Time to go on the offensive.