The Ohio heartbeat bill moved a step closer to final passage Wednesday when a state Senate committee approved the pro-life legislation.
The controversial measure, state House Bill 258, would ban most abortions in Ohio by prohibiting abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. An unborn baby’s heart beat is detectable 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.
The state House passed the bill in November, and the Senate appears likely to pass it as well. However, Gov. John Kasich said he would veto the legislation.
WOSU Radio reports Democrats introduced amendments Wednesday to include exceptions for rape and the health of the mother, which is basically an all-encompassing exception. However, the amendments did not pass.
Another amendment, backed by Republicans, did pass the committee. It would allow the state medical board to take away the license of a doctor who violates the law, according to the report. They also passed an amendment to clarify that transvaginal ultrasounds are not a requirement of the legislation, the report states.
A vote in the full state Senate is expected later Wednesday.
State Rep. Christina Hagan, a lead sponsor of the bill, 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 reported earlier this month.
“Now is absolutely the time to pass the Heartbeat Bill,” she said, previously. “We need every minute and hour that we can get to send it to the right court makeup.”
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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.
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.