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Physicians, Right to Life ask Kasich to veto Heartbeat Bill

By RANDY LUDLOW • Dec 13, 2016 at 2:00 PM

COLUMBUS (TNS) — Opponents and proponents of the so-called Heartbeat Bill — which would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — are lobbying Gov. John Kasich to favor their side in acting on the legislation.

Groups that favor the legislation passed last week by majority Republicans in the General Assembly are asking Kasich to sign the bill into law, while others are asking him to veto the measure, according to communiques with the governor's office requested by The Dispatch.

The bill would impose the strictest limits on abortion in the nation by forbidding physicians from performing abortions once a fetal heartbeat is present, which generally occurs around six weeks into pregnancy.

GOP lawmakers passed another bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks, when supporters contend a fetus can feel pain. Ohio's current law bans abortions after 24 weeks.

In a letter, the 16,000-member Ohio State Medical Association asked Kasich to veto both bills. The governor's office had received neither as of today. Kasich, who opposes abortion but has favored exceptions for incest, rape and life of the mother. Both bills provide no exception for rape or incest. Kasich, who also has expressed concerns about the legality of the six-week ban, has 10 days to veto, sign the bills or let them become law without his signature once he gets the bills. The Heartbeat Bill, inserted into other legislation, can be killed with a line-item veto since it was accompanied by a $100,000 appropriation to encourage adoption.

It is OSMA policy “to neither promote nor oppose legislative proposals related to the legality of abortion procedures. However, separate OSMA policy opposes legislation that criminalizes or otherwise penalizes any medical procedure that is considered a standard of care,” wrote Dr. Brian Bachelder, association president.

Physicians who violate the Heartbeat Bill or 20-week ban could face fifth- and fourth-degree felonies, respectively, carrying up to one year and 18 months in prison. They also could be sued by the women on whom illegal abortions are performed.

“While the scope of medical practice is and should be under legislative control, determining the appropriateness for performing standard medical procedures has traditionally been — and should continue to be — left to the expertise of medical professionals,” Bachelder wrote.

The more than 1,500 members of the Ohio section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also objected to "criminalizing a medical procedure" and asked the second-term governor to veto the Heartbeat Bill.

“While we respect the need of our members to determine their own personal values and beliefs, we believe termination of pregnancy is a medical matter between the patient and her physician, subject to the physician's clinical judgment and the patient's informed consent,” wrote Dr. Wayne Trout, chairman, and Dr. Amy Burkett, vice chairwoman.

In separate letter, the obstetricians also asked Kasich to veto the 20-week abortion bill.

“A great number of pregnancy terminations beyond 20 weeks are due to identification of serious and fatal birth defects in otherwise highly desired pregnancies. Continuation of these pregnancies would result in certain death of the baby and expose the newborn to needless pain,” they wrote.

Kasich's office said it had received no letters from groups or organizations asking him to sign the Heartbeat Bill, only letters from individuals.

John and Mary Clifford, of Ravenna, identifying themselves as parents to four, grandparents to eight and great-grandparents to two children, were among the letter writers to Kasich.

“We are confident with your background based in biblical truth and all the evidence of God's creation surrounding us, you'll sign this opportunity to speak for the voiceless little unborn children,” they wrote.

In a news release, Faith 2 Action head Janet Porter called on Kasich to sign the Heartbeat Bill, long on its legislative agenda.

“You remember what Gov. Kasich said in the presidential debate: ‘If you save one life, it is as if you saved the world.’ This is an opportunity for Gov. Kasich to save not just one life, but nearly 20,000 lives each year,” she wrote.

“I can't imagine the governor would want to kill the Heartbeat Bill because he fears the courts might — that makes about as much sense as killing someone because they ‘might die,’” Porter said.

The Ohio Christian Alliance said in a release that “pro-life Ohioans are rejoicing” that the Heartbeat Bill is headed to Kasich's desk, citing the Cincinnati doctor who founded Right to Life.

“The late Dr. Jack Willke supported this legislation and said it was needed at this time to advance the cause of life,” the alliance said.

But in a bitterly divided “pro-life” movement, Ohio Right to Life opposes the Heartbeat Bill as likely to be held as unconstitutional in federal courts and possibly detriment to other recently passed laws paring back abortion rights. The group asked Kasich to sign only the 20-week abortion ban.

That bill “is recognized in Ohio across the nation as the best and only realistic approach to not only save unborn lives now, but also to serve as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” Marshal Pitchford, chairman, and Michael Gonadakis, president, wrote to Kasich.

@RandyLudlow

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