February 19, 2015 — Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill (HB 69) that would ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (Borchardt, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/17).
The Ohio House in December rejected a similar measure (HB 248) (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/11/14). Meanwhile, courts have placed holds on similar legislation that passed in Arkansas and North Dakota.
State Reps. Christina Hagan (R) and Ron Hood (R) proposed the new Ohio bill, which has 48 other co-sponsors.
The bill would make it a fifth-degree felony for a provider to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It includes exemptions if an abortion is needed to save a woman's life or prevent serious health complications. Individuals who violate the ban could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $2,500.
In addition, if the law were overturned in court, the state attorney general or county prosecutors could restore it if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which allows states to ban abortion only after the fetus is viable outside the womb, typically between 24 and 28 weeks. Further, the measure would create a legislative committee to encourage adoption.
Possible Legal Issues
According to the Plain Dealer, abortion-rights supporters said the bill, if passed, would trigger a court challenge and be struck down as unconstitutional under Roe (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/17).
Meanwhile, Gov. John Kasich (R) and Senate President Keith Faber (R) have expressed concerns that a court challenge striking down the measure could undermine other antiabortion-rights legislation (Candisky, Columbus Dispatch, 2/18). Similarly, Ohio Right to Life has not supported previous "heartbeat" measures over concerns that they would be ruled unconstitutional (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/17).
Abortion-rights advocates have also noted that the bill would ban abortion at a point in pregnancy when many women are unaware they are pregnant, according to the Dispatch. Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, called the bill "bad medicine," adding that it "is unconstitutional and unnecessary" (Columbus Dispatch, 2/18).