November 28, 2011 — Facing pressure from an antiabortion-rights group, Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) said the chamber's Republican majority has overcome a four-month impasse and will move forward with a bill that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (Marshall, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25). The so-called "heartbeat" bill (HB 125), approved by the Ohio House in June, includes no exceptions for rape or incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/17).
A fetal heartbeat sometimes can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy, and abortion-rights groups have noted that women might not even know they are pregnant by that time. The bill also has drawn opposition from some factions of the antiabortion-rights movement. Ohio Right to Life opposes the bill because of concern that it would fail a court challenge -- a position that has created a rift between the group and Ohio Pro Life Action, which supports the measure.
Ohio Pro Life Action recently began running ads on Fox News programs in some Ohio markets urging senators to act on the bill. Group officials said the ads help sway lawmakers to act.
Niehaus said the Senate's Health, Human Services and Aging Committee will hold hearings on the bill, with the intent of moving the measure to the floor for passage. The Senate's Republican caucus, which holds a 23-10 majority, is solidly antiabortion, the Plain Dealer reports.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said of the bill, "It's not going to end abortions, it's going to make them illegal and dangerous" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/25).