ACLU Pledges Lawsuits if Ohio Enacts Antiabortion Bills

December 7, 2011 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Tuesday promised to pursue legal action if state lawmakers approve either of two antiabortion-rights bills being debated this week, Reuters reports (Ingles, Reuters, 12/6).

One measure is the so-called "heartbeat" bill (HB 125), which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable -- as early as six weeks into pregnancy -- with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/5). That bill, which the House approved in June, is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

The second bill (HB 79), which also passed the House in June, 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. A Senate committee held a hearing on the bill on Tuesday and could vote on Wednesday to send the bill to the full chamber (Sanner, AP/Dayton Daily News, 12/6).

ACLU News Conference

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, ACLU Ohio Associate Director Gary Daniels said, "It's quite clear that these bills are going to pass and be signed into law," adding, "And like we've always done, we will be there in court to defend the reproductive rights of Ohio's women." He said he is confident that both bills will be declared unconstitutional under either the U.S. or the state Constitution.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio's Kellie Copeland also spoke against the legislation. "We would caution this Legislature and Gov. [John] Kasich (R) that because litigation is assured and because (ACLU) stands on such strong legal ground that if they enact these laws, ... they are inviting costly and protracted litigation," she said, adding, "One has to wonder if they have their priorities in line with the state of Ohio and the needs of [its] citizens" (Fields, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/6).