Ohio Senate Panel Holds Hearing on Bill to Ban Abortions After Unborn Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 5, 2018   |   7:33PM   |   Columbus, Ohio

An Ohio bill to ban abortions after an unborn baby has a detectable heartbeat moved closer to a final vote this week in the state Senate.

WOSU Radio reports a Senate committee held a hearing on state House Bill 258 as abortion activists protested outside. The state House passed the bill in November.

The controversial legislation would ban most abortions in Ohio by prohibiting abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. An unborn baby’s heart begins beating around six weeks, though new research suggests it may begin as early as 18 days after conception. The bill also would allow abortion practitioners to be charged with a felony for aborting unborn babies whose hearts are beating.

Some of the strongest advocates for life in the legislature are women. State Rep. Christina Hagan is a lead sponsor of the bill. She said she wants the bill to pass now more than ever because of the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court upholding it, ABC News 22 reports.

“Now is absolutely the time to pass the Heartbeat Bill,” she said. “We need every minute and hour that we can get to send it to the right court makeup.”

Meg Wittman, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, also expressed optimism about the bill.

“The US Supreme Court has been moving in a direction with cases post-Roe that calls for optimism and indicates opportunity for bold, decisive protections for the preborn like Heartbeat to be adopted by the Ohio Legislature,” she said.

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But opponents who gathered for a pro-abortion protest this week claimed the legislation would hurt women in difficult situations.

According to the report:

Ohio State medical student Erica Reese talked about a woman she met named Anna, who had to decide whether to abort the fetus that was unlikely to survive or complete her pregnancy with people asking painful questions.

“Those 20 weeks would result in Anna having to go through an impossibly hard labor to deliver a stillborn,” Reese said. “This sentence being handed down to our fellow sisters is both cruel and unusual.”

Xavier University student Lily Hutkowski has a very different opinion. She told a campus news outlet that she supports the bill because it could save babies’ lives.

“The Ohio Heartbeat bill is not (just) any piece of legislation it has the potential to save lives. Life is the right of all people not just the planned, privileged and abled to be treated with dignity and respect but most of all, love,” Hutkowski said. “This bill will protect the most vulnerable in our society from a procedure that stops one heart and breaks another.”

The full state Senate may vote on the bill later this week.

Gov. John Kasich said he will veto the legislation, but pro-life lawmakers believe they have enough votes to override his veto. Ohio passed a similar bill in 2016, but Kasich vetoed it, fearing an almost certain legal challenge.

In 2017, 20,893 unborn babies were aborted in Ohio, according to the state Department of Health.

Heartbeat bills have been met with skepticism in the past, even by many pro-life groups, because of pro-abortion legal challenges.

North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about their ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.

There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain. Some legal scholars have speculated that the new conservative court would be more likely to consider cases that gradually chip away at Roe v. Wade rather than reverse it completely.