The Ohio state House today passed three pro-life bills including a measure that would ban most all abortions, one that bans late-term abortions and a third that stops taxpayer funding of abortions in Ohio under Obamacare.
The chamber approved the “Heartbeat Bill” that would ban virtually all abortions in the state starting at the 22-day mark when an unborn child’s heart begins beating. The legislation has the support of some pro-life advocates but Ohio Right to Life and other pro-life groups oppose the bill because of various concerns about its ability to survive a court challenge. The group worries it will be struck down under Roe v. Wade and add to pro-abortion case law upholding the 1973 Supreme Court decision allowing 53 million abortions.
The House, led by Republicans, voted 54-43 for the abortion ban, which now faces less certain prospects in the state Senate.
“This is a historic vote,” said Porter, the president of Ohio-based Faith2Action,one of the main pro-life groups pushing the legislation. “When passed, the heartbeat bill will be the most protective legislation in the nation.”
Ohio Right to Life promoted the other two bills, including H.B. 78, the Late-Term Abortion Ban, which passed with bipartisan support out of committee.
Both strategically crafted bills withstood attempts at pro-abortion amendments and emerged from the House floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. House Bill 78 was passed by an astounding 64 to 32 vote and House Bill 79 was passed by a 62 to 35 vote.
“We are trying to make sure that no child dies from a brutal and painful death through a late-term abortion, and that and no woman has to confront the trauma and medical problems they cause,” said Mike Gonidakis, Executive Director at Ohio Right to Life.
“The passing of our legislation is a defining moment in Ohio history for the pro-life movement,” he added. “Our late term abortion ban is part of a national strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade and today Ohio is one step closer to joining other states such as Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma who are currently saving these babies lives.”
The Late-Term Abortion Ban would require physicians to test the viability of an unborn child if the mother were seeking an abortion at 20 weeks or later into her pregnancy. If the child is found to be able to live outside the mother’s womb, the abortion cannot be performed, except in circumstances where the pregnancy is a threat to the mother’s health. The measure also contains language making it clear a mental health exception can’t be used to get around the ban — especially since a substantial amount of research shows abortions pose mental health risks for women.
Gonidakis said this is one of the first major efforts to limit late-term abortions in Ohio following a 1997 decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the state’s previous ban. He believes the 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a federal partial-birth abortion ban gives the state legal leverage to push for banning late-term abortions.
“There have been a lot of court cases that have come down the pike, and we believe the climate is right now both judicially and legislatively to put this forward,” he said.
Ohio is home to Martin Haskell, one of the main promoters of the partial-birth abortion method 38 states and Congress have banned and he continues to do abortions late in pregnancy using other procedures at his Cincinnati-area abortion business. Gonidakis estimates the late-term abortion ban could prevent as many as 700 abortions annually in Ohio.
“A lot of people think abortion is something that happens in the first couple days – you pop a pill and everything’s over. It’s not,” he said.
The bill on Obamacare would have Ohio line up with several other states that have exercised their right to limit the taxpayer funding of abortions under the government-run health care plan, which has massive abortion-funding loopholes.
“Ohio voters elected a pro-life majority in the General Assembly to pass legislation such as HB 78 and HB 79 which will protect mothers and babies and taxpayers from having to fund abortions,” said Gonidakis.
Cathy Levy, executive director of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, condemned the passage of the three pro-life bills, according to the Lancaster Gazette.
“These bills will return us to the days of back-alley abortions and will not keep abortions from happening,” she claimed. “Is the coat hanger what God would want for a beloved daughter?”
The Heartbeat bill has divided the pro-life community in Ohio with Porter’s group supporting it along with Paula Westwood, Executive Director of Cincinnati Right to Life, Bobbi Radeck, state director of Concerned Women for America, and Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values, supporting the measure.
But Marshal Pitchford, chairman of the Ohio Right to Life Society, says the legislation is problematic because it would not be upheld in court thanks to the 5-4 pro-abortion majority currently on the Supreme Court. If the bill is declared unconstitutional, Right to Life is concerned current pro-life laws that limit abortions and have saved lives would be overturned as well and result in an increase in the number of abortions.
“Legal analysts state that the “heartbeat bill” could also be interpreted by pro-abortion federal judges and abortion advocates to repeal other Ohio pro-life laws, such as informed consent requirements,” he said. “We cannot risk those repeals and a decade’s worth of work so many honest pro-life advocates have pursued to make Ohio a safer place for mothers and babies.”
Some “heartbeat bill” proponents say they followed the advice of several legal scholars when they drafted this bill, including a Cleveland State University professor but Pitchford says the same professor stated that the “heartbeat bill” should not be passed now and prefers to see a post viability ban be passed first or, otherwise, it would be “irresponsible and self-defeating to our cause” and could create additional legal problems for a total ban on abortion.
Abortions have gone down in Ohio, with the state health department reporting 28,721 in 2009, down three percent from the 2008 abortion total and the ninth straight year of decline. Since 2000, abortions are down 40 percent in the state.