Ohio Senators Begin Hearings on 'Heartbeat' Bill

December 9, 2011 — An Ohio Senate committee on Wednesday heard testimony from supporters of a bill (HB 125) that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can occur as early as six weeks, the Dayton Daily News report. The committee will hear testimony from opponents of the measure next week (Hershey, Dayton Daily News, 12/8).

The so-called "heartbeat" bill, which was approved by the Ohio House in June, includes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/7).

The bill has divided antiabortion-rights advocates, some of whom fear that the measure would be struck down in court. State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, the bill's sponsor, told the committee on Wednesday, "If I felt confident that the courts would strike this down, I would not have carried it forward" (Sanner, AP/Miami Herald, 12/7). Supporters of the bill brought in a nine-week-old infant whose fetal heartbeat had been played at nine weeks of gestation during an earlier House hearing.

At six weeks of gestation, a woman might not know she is pregnant, according to experts. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the bill "rolls back the clock on women's health. It won't stop abortions. It will take them out of the safe, legal, medical environment and put them back into people taking some pretty desperate measures that could endanger their health" (Dayton Daily News, 12/8).

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Tuesday promised to pursue legal action if state lawmakers approve the bill or second bill (HB 79) that also passed the House in June. The bill would ban heath plans within the Ohio health insurance exchange -- to be established under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148) -- from covering abortion care (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/7).