Fetal Heartbeat Provision Added to Ohio Budget; Gov. Noncommittal on Signing

June 27, 2013 — An Ohio joint conference committee on Tuesday approved a budget bill after adding a provision that would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound to try to detect a fetal heartbeat, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The bill is scheduled for final votes in the House and Senate on Thursday.

Under the amendment, a physician must perform an abdominal ultrasound to search for a fetal heartbeat and tell the woman if a one is detected. The physician also would be required to explain "the statistical probability of carrying the fetus to full term," according to the Dispatch. The amendment also would alter the definition of medical emergency.

The provision joins other abortion restrictions already in the bill, including one that aims to cut off Planned Parenthood from federal family planning funding and another that would bar abortion providers from transferring patients to public hospitals (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 6/26).

Only Gov. Can Alter Budget

At this point in the budget process, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has the authority to make changes to the legislation, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today.

If the Legislature approves the budget on Thursday as expected, Kasich would have until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday to make any line-item vetoes. The budget would then take effect on Monday.

Kasich on Wednesday said he wouldn't make a decision about a veto until closer to the deadline. "I'll look at the language, keeping in mind that I'm pro-life," he said, adding that he does not think there was anything "out of the ordinary here in the way in which [lawmakers] decided" to add the abortion amendment.


State Sen. Tom Sawyer criticized the conference committee for adding the ultrasound requirement to the budget. "Where is this amendment coming from?" he said (Thompson, Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today, 6/26).

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said, "If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school."

State Rep. Mike Foley (D) said, "This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion."

State Rep. Ron Amstutz (R) said, "I don't think [the proposal] really is that different than other activity that is going on" (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 6/26).