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Ohio Senate OKs 'Heartbeat Bill'

By Maggie Prosser • Updated Mar 13, 2019 at 4:56 PM

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate today passed the "heartbeat bill,” pushing the controversial bill closer toward its likely enactment after weeks of contention and debate.

Senate Bill 23, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, passed by a vote of 19-13. The bill now heads to the Ohio House of Representatives.

Sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson), the measure would make it a crime for a doctor to perform nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can occur as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

"Today we took another important step in saving precious babies and preserving the sanctity of human life,” Roegner said. "All of Ohio's children, born and unborn, deserve our respect and our protection throughout every stage of their life."

Similar legislation was introduced last session, but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Kasich. Current Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

“Today our nation watched the Ohio Senate overwhelmingly vote in support of life with the passage of Ohio’s heartbeat bill,” said Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “We believe that the heartbeat bill is the best vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade and Ohio will be at the forefront of saving lives throughout our Nation.

“Ohio Right to Life is grateful to witness the Ohio Senate take a principled stand and recognize that every baby with a beating heart deserves the right to live.”

“This legislation is being introduced in state houses across the nation, but it all started right here in Ohio,” Gonidakis said. “We’re proud to be on the forefront of protecting the unborn, and we thank Senate President Larry Obhof for making this a priority. Ohio Right to Life looks forward to working with the Ohio House and to move swiftly on this crucial piece of legislation.

All 19 “yes” voters are Republicans. 

All nine Democrats in the state senate voted “no.” The four Republicans who joined them included Sen. Nathan Manning, whose constituency includes Huron County.

Sen. Louis Terhar, a Republican, did not vote.

“The Heartbeat Bill is what Ohio voters want,” said Aaron Baer, President of Citizens for Community Values. “This bill was front and center in the 2018 elections, and the voters once again overwhelmingly elected officials that value all life — born and unborn.”

“Thanks to the courageous leadership of Senator Kristina Roegner, Senate Health Committee Chairman Dave Burke, and Senate President Larry Obhof, the Ohio Senate was able to pass this life-saving bill with a strong majority. Ohio is on the brink of making history, and sending a strong message that Ohioans care deeply for our most vulnerable.”

Additionally, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 41, co- sponsored by Roegner, which urges Congress to pass legislation to protect innocent babies who are inadvertently born alive during an abortion procedure, known as the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Since 2011, the Ohio Senate has passed more significant legislation to defend unborn children and protect their right to life than at any time since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling in 1973.


Senate Health Committee results

Senate Bill 23 — which would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — passed 8-4 in the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday, allowing it to advance to the Senate floor Wednesday.

The health committee held four hearings on the bill before Tuesday's vote, leaving little discussion on its substance. Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, attempted to amend the bill to include exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and for women with mental health issues.

"There are women who — for mental health reasons — cannot continue with a pregnancy," Antonio said. "Forcing a women to carry that pregnancy to term really puts at risk their mental health, both during that time period and after."

Both proposed amendments were tabled by voice vote.

Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Columbus, also introduced amendments that would allow hospitals to give victims of rape emergency contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and require mandatory health insurance coverage for maternity services.

"We know Ohio is fighting not only an infant mortality crisis, but also a maternal mortality crisis," Maharath said. "It is our responsibility as legislators, to insure that women have access to basic maternal health needs, so they can give birth to happy and healthy babies."

Those amendments also were tabled.

The committee also voted on Senate Resolution 41, which would urge Congress to enact a Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act to guarantee adequate medical care is given to babies born after surviving an attempted abortions.

Anti-abortion rights advocates argued the resolution reinforces constitutional protections for "abortion survivors;" abortion-rights advocates said it used charged language to attack women that choose to have an abortion.

Ultimately, the resolution passed 9-3.


©2019 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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Court: Ohio may withhold Planned Parenthood funding

By Jim Provance

The Blade, Toledo (TNS)

COLUMBUS — A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Planned Parenthood does not have the right to challenge Ohio government’s decision to withhold its clinics’ federal health-care dollars because of their connection to abortion.

The ruling by the full bench of the Cincinnati-based court overturned last year’s ruling from a three-judge panel of the court that declared unconstitutional a 2016 law barring Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving government funding because they perform or make referrals for abortions.

The law threw up roadblocks for the clinics to receive the last $1.3 million in federal funds, awarded through the state, that they had been getting for testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, sex education, and other health services not tied to abortion.

The state argued that patients could still find these services through programs that would receive the funding instead of Planned Parenthood.

“The affiliates are correct that the Ohio law imposes a condition on the continued receipt of state funds,” U.S. Sixth Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the most recent 11-6 decision. “But that condition does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a due process right to perform abortions.”

Judge Sutton, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, also wrote the Ohio law does not violate a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

“It makes these programs available to every woman, whether she seeks an abortion or not,” he wrote. “Nor, on this record, has there been any showing that the Ohio law will limit the number of clinics that offer abortions in the State.”

To decide otherwise, he wrote, “would create a constitutional right for providers to offer abortion services and, in doing so, move the law perilously close to requiring States to subsidize abortions. Case law rejects both possibilities.”

Federal and state law already makes it illegal to spend public funds for abortions. The funds in question have been used by Planned Parenthood for other health-care services.

Judge Helen N. White, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, dissented.

“The majority’s novel rule gives the government the authority to impose almost any condition it wants on abortion providers so long as the providers continue to perform abortions,” she wrote. “The government acknowledged as much at oral argument.

“This type of assault on a constitutional right is precisely the type of harm the unconstitutional-conditions doctrine is meant to protect against,” Judge White wrote.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio runs 19 centers, including one in Toledo. Three of the clinics — in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Bedford Heights near Cleveland — perform abortions, but all can make referrals to other clinics for abortion.

“Today’s ruling rewards a political stunt by state lawmakers that has real consequences for Ohio women and families,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, said. “By blocking funding for women to access potentially lifesaving healthcare — including breast and cervical cancer screenings and infant mortality prevention programs — Ohio lawmakers are putting politics over the health and safety of their constituents.”

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the appeals court got it right.

“Ohio Right to Life is absolutely thrilled that Planned Parenthood will not get any more of our state tax dollars,” he said. “Thanks to this very encouraging decision, Ohioans of conscience won't have to worry about whether their tax dollars are going towards abortions.”

The decision came down on the same day that the state Senate Health, Human Services, and Medicaid Committee moved a bill to the Senate that would give Ohio one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country.

With one Republican joining Democrats in opposition, the committee approved Senate Bill 23. Sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson), the measure would make it a crime for a doctor to perform nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can occur as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

If the measure is approved by both the Senate and the House, it will mark the third time for lawmakers. The first two tries had been vetoed by then Gov. John Kasich, but his successor, fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, has said he would sign it.

“It’s no coincidence these tactics are coming to a head at the same time,” Planned Parenthood spokesman Sarah Inskeep said.


©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

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