Ohio Bill Would Ban Late-Term Abortions, Gets Pro-Life OK

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 17, 2011   |   2:35PM   |   Columbus, OH

A bill introduced in the Ohio legislature would ban late-term abortions and it has the support of Ohio Right to Life, though the pro-life group would like changes to it.

Rep. Lorraine Fende of Willowick, a Democrat, is behind the measure, House Bill 7, that would ban abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy or past 20 weeks if the unborn child is determined “viable.” 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.

“I had a conversation with someone quite some time ago that right now, you could be 8 1/2 months’ pregnant and have an abortion for no reason,” Fende said, according to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper. “It’s my hope there will be hearings on it before we get into the budget bill because, it seems like, when it’s budget-bill time, that is all-consuming.”

Michael Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, says his group supports the legislation and told the newspaper that 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. Gonidaklis 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 told the Dispatch.

Despite support for the measure, Ohio Right to Life will likely push for changing to it, including having the ban begin at 20 weeks and to re-write the language preventing the mental health exception to withstand an expected legal challenge from pro-abortion groups.

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.