Ohio Abortion-Rights Opponents Push for 'Heartbeat' Bill

September 21, 2011 — Hundreds of abortion-rights opponents rallied at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday to call for passage of a bill that would ban abortion after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, Reuters reports (Ingles, Reuters, 9/20). The bill (HB 125), which passed the Ohio House by a 54-43 vote in June, includes exceptions for abortions that are necessary to preserve the woman's life or prevent serious health problems, but it does not include exceptions for rape or incest. If enacted, the bill would be one of the most restrictive antiabortion-rights laws in the country. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Janet Folger Porter, president of the antiabortion-rights group Faith2Action, said, "This day signals the beginning of the end of abortion on demand." Republican presidential candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry support the bill.

Abortion-rights groups also held a Statehouse rally on Tuesday. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said, "We will be a constant reminder to legislators that Ohioans are in no mood for an anti-choice agenda to take over the Statehouse" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 9/20). She noted that the bill "would outlaw abortion at a point in pregnancy when many don't yet realize they're pregnant."

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled state Senate, though passage is not certain. Ohio Right to Life has called the bill "the right idea at the wrong time" and expressed concern that the measure would be overturned by the Supreme Court (Reuters, 9/20).