March 26, 2015 — The Ohio House on Wednesday voted 55-40 to approve a bill (HB 69) that would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration (Higgs, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/25). According to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle, the chamber will have the rest of the Ohio Legislature's two-year session to consider the measure (Carr Smyth, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/25).
Similar bills have failed in two previous state legislative sessions.
State Reps. Christina Hagan (R) and Ron Hood (R) proposed this year's bill, which 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5). It does not include exemptions for cases of rape or incest (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/25).
Individuals who violate the ban could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $2,500.
The measure also would create a legislative committee to encourage adoption (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).
The bill was approved mostly along party lines (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/25). According to the Columbus Dispatch, most of the chamber's Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the bill, while most Democrats and 10 Republican lawmakers voted against it.
Conservatives during debate over the measure rejected several amendments, including one that would have added exemptions for cases of incest and rape (Candisky, Columbus Dispatch, 3/26).
According to the Plain Dealer, abortion-rights supporters in the state House voiced several reasons why the bill should be rejected, including concerns that it would violate both the state and U.S. constitutions and only would make abortion more dangerous for Ohio residents (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/25).
State Rep. Michael Curtin (D) said the bill is "a profound abuse of power," noting, "This legislation unequivocally states that government ... knows better" than physicians and those involved with the pregnancy.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D), who also opposed the bill, revealed that she had been raped and had an abortion. She called the bill "fundamentally inhuman" and "unconstitutional," adding, "How dare government get in my business" (Columbus Dispatch, 3/26).
Separately, Hagan argued that individuals should not be allowed to stop a fetus' beating heart (Palmer, Reuters, 3/25).
Chances of Becoming Law Dim
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the measure faces potential opposition from some members of the state Senate and Gov. John Kasich (R). The lawmakers have expressed concern that the measure would be found unconstitutional if challenged in court.
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R) said the state Senate would hold hearings on the measure "at some point" (Columbus Dispatch, 3/26). However, he added, "I'm still waiting for that legal scholar to come forward and say that the heartbeat bill is constitutional."
Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights groups said they plan to increase lobbying efforts on the state Senate to pass the bill (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/25).