June 30, 2011 — After a week of contentious hearings surrounding abortion rights, the Ohio House on Tuesday approved three antiabortion measures, including a controversial "heartbeat" bill, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The "heartbeat" bill (HB 125) would ban abortion after the first detectable fetal heartbeat -- which can occur as early as six weeks -- without any exceptions for rape or incest. Five Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill (Guillen, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/28).
Lawmakers also approved a bill (HB 78) that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks if the physician determined the fetus could survive outside of the womb and a separate measure (HB 79) that would implement restrictions on private health plans' abortion coverage (Sanner, AP/MSNBC, 6/28). The two bills were supported by a "handful" of Democrats, according to the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/28). All three bills head to the GOP-controlled Senate for approval (AP/MSNBC, 6/28).
Executive Director of Ohio Right to Life Michael Gonidakis said, "It was just a great day for the pro-life movement in Ohio." The organization did not endorse the heartbeat bill because of concerns about the measure's constitutionality (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/28). Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R), sponsor of the heartbeat bill, said, "In order to make progress in protecting unborn babies, you have to first ask the courts to offer more protections" (AP/MSNBC, 6/28).
Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) said, "This is by far the worst day I've experienced as a member of this chamber," adding, "This bill is anti-woman, it's out of touch, it's an overreach, and in this case, it's utterly unconstitutional." House Democratic Leader Armond Budish said, "Instead of focusing on job creation, the Republicans continue to push the most divisive, partisan agenda in Ohio's history," adding, "This law is blatantly unconstitutional and will only cost this state money we do not have for the legal costs of defending the indefensible" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/28). "These bills will return us to the days of back-alley abortions and will not keep abortions from happening," Cathy Levy, executive director of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choices, said (AP/MSNBC, 6/28).