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'Heartbeat Bill' goes to governor after House and Senate pass it today

By Maggie Prosser • Updated Apr 11, 2019 at 10:05 AM

(UPDATED at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2019)

Democrats have expressed their disapproval of the Ohio legislature passing the “Heartbeat Bill” today.

“Today, Ohio Republicans became the latest example of how the Trump administration’s extremist, anti-women policies have emboldened legislators across the country to attack women’s access to health care,” Democratic National Committee CEO Seema Nanda said. “With the state legislature’s passage of Ohio’s so-called ‘heartbeat bill,’ the extreme, unconstitutional abortion ban that even former Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed is headed for Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s signature. This shameful ban, which doesn’t even make exceptions for cases of rape or incest, would put women’s lives at risk by barring their access to safe, legal abortion. This is a direct attack on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body with her doctor.

“Ohio is only one of more than a dozen states that have introduced legislation banning abortion after six weeks this year,” Nanda added. “With Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and Donald Trump in the White House, Republicans will continue to push unconstitutional bills just like this as part of a larger effort to ban abortion nationwide. While Republicans continue to play partisan games with women’s health care, Democrats will keep fighting to protect women’s access to critical care.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) released a statement urging Gov. Mike DeWine to veto the bill, which Brown says is one of the most restrictive bills in the country when it comes to limiting the ability of women to make their own healthcare decisions.

“Healthcare decisions should be made between women and their doctors, not Republican legislators,” Brown said. “Gov. DeWine should veto this measure immediately and lawmakers in Columbus should stop the unrelenting attacks on women’s healthcare. There’s too much at stake for the Ohio legislature to be playing politics.”

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(UPDATED at 4:37 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2019)

The Ohio Senate has passed the Heartbeat Bill (SB 23) with an 18-13 vote this afternoon.

This bill would prohibit abortion once a heartbeat is detected in an unborn child.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine, who has 10 days to sign, veto, or let the bill go into law without his signature.

DeWine has previously pledged to sign this legislation if it reached his desk.

“Ohio’s made history!” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values. “Since 1973, countless unborn children have lost their lives to abortion in Ohio. Thanks to the compassion and commitment of the Ohio General Assembly, the Buckeye State will end this atrocity.”

Ohio joins six other states who have passed similar legislation.

“Ohio Right to Life commends our countless pro-life leaders in the Ohio House and Senate who have made the heartbeat bill a priority,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “The Heartbeat Bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade. While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies. We look forward to standing beside our friend and pro-life Governor, Mike DeWine when he signs the heartbeat bill. This is the right time for Ohio to courageously take an aggressive stand for our little unborn Ohioans with beating hearts.”

An abdominal ultrasound can detect a heartbeat between eight and twelve weeks. Any physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected would have to demonstrate they did so to save the life of the mother.

"With the composition of the Supreme Court being as favorable as it is today, we see good things on the horizon as it regards the Heartbeat Bill” said Stephanie Ranade Krider, vice president and executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “That being said, we can't rest on our laurels now that we've achieved this incredible milestone. We won't stop advocating for legislation at the Statehouse that increases protections for women and their unborn babies. There is much yet to be done in our state to promote a culture of life, and Ohio Right to Life plans to be on the forefront of that effort."

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The GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved the "Heartbeat Bill" today after weeks of testimony, dozens of proposed amendments and late changes to the controversial legislation.

Senate Bill 23, which passed 56-39, would prohibit abortion once a heartbeat is detected in an unborn child.

Because the bill was amended in committee, it must go back to the Senate for a final vote before heading to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.

DeWine has frequently indicated he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

The House Health Committee's latest version of SB 23 passed 11-7 along party lines Tuesday. While the current version does not touch the core of the bill — to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — it does impose additional fines to physicians who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. It also eliminates various legal protections for physicians and encourages the use of more-sensitive medical technology to detect fetal heartbeats. 

Committee Democrats proposed a slew of amendments, most of which failed along party lines. Some of the amendments involved exceptions for fetal abnormalities, African-American women, women's mental health and religious reasons.

"If you are moved by your faith system, then you must have respect for other faith systems," said Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland, who has consistently argued that religious standards for when life begins vary.

Committee Chairman Derek Merrin, R-Monclova, said abortion rights are not a religious issue, despite earlier saying — in response to Ravenna Democratic Rep. Randi Clites' proposal to exemptfetuses with abnormalities — "we are all made in the image of God."

Democrats also introduced a grouping of amendments that Merrin shot down as "not germane to the bill," including: appropriating state funds for maternal and prenatal health, equal to the litigation costs the state is spending to defend abortion-restrictive legislation; providing transportation and child-care vouchers to mothers; reinstating funding to Planned Parenthood and other women's clinics; teaching age-appropriate sex education in schools; and removing criminal penalties for doctors.

The Heartbeat Bill "has nothing to do with what's good for the state of Ohio and our health," Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said. "If it did, guess what we'd be talking about in this committee: ... reducing our infant morality rate, our maternal morality rate, our addiction crisis, our chronic diseases, our mental health. ... This is a sham."

Merrin stressed that Democratic members' amendments were submitted after business hours, and therefore the Republican majority had inadequate time to prepare. Boyd, the ranking minority member, countered, saying that several GOP amendments also were turned in late.

After initially refusing to accept additional testimony, Merrin allowed three opponents to provide oral testimony and one to submit written testimony. He told the audience that the committee already had heard hundreds of witnesses testify and said that was sufficient.

A Dispatch photographer also was not allowed to take pictures during much of the committee hearing, even though she had properly filled out the requisite form. House officials blamed a mix-up in communication.

If the measure wins approval as expected, the Senate will vote on whether to accept the House's changes. If the Senate refuses the House's version, the legislation will head to a conference committee.

"The women of Ohio deserve better than to be pawns in a political game," said Gaby Garcia-Vera of Catholics for Choice, who was originally told by Merrin's office that his testimony would not be accepted.

Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, countered: "As Americans have watched states like New York pass radical pro-abortion legislation, Ohio is taking bold steps to defend the dignity of unborn children. The Heartbeat Bill affirms what science and common sense tell us: that unborn children are unique individuals, worthy of basic protections."

On Wedneday, Baer added: “Elections matter. Ohio voters have continued to send pro-life champions to the General Assembly, and today, we witnessed this hard work pay off.”

Asked what differentiates the Ohio bill from heartbeat bans in other states that have been overturned in the courts, DeWine said, "Well, I don't think we can project what a future (U.S.) Supreme Court will do, particularly in regard to the fact it could take several years before a bill like this would reach the Supreme Court."

When asked if the intent of the measure was to prompt a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortion, DeWine said the final language of the bill has not been determined.

"I've made it very clear for a long time that I'm pro-life, that I think the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable people among us, and that certainly includes the unborn," DeWine said.


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