Ohio Senate set to vote on ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill tomorrow

Action on the so-called “heartbeat” abortion ban bill stalled again in the Ohio Senate but may come as soon as today.

The Senate Health Committee is expected to reconvene to consider amendments to House Bill 258, which would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — sometimes as early as six weeks before women know they’re pregnant.

The current version does not make exceptions for victims of sexual assault or incest.

Committee Chairman Dave Burke, R-Marysville, noted that several amendments are expected to be offered by Republican and Democrat lawmakers. He said he hopes the bill will be ready for a Senate floor vote this afternoon.

“This is the most deliberated heartbeat bill in the country,” said Janet Folger Porter, president of Faith2Action and a driving force behind the legislation. “It’s time to pass the bill.”

Gov. John Kasich, who leaves office Jan. 13, vetoed a similar bill in December 2016 and lawmakers did not return to Columbus to override the veto. The same thing could happen to House Bill 258. Kasich has indicated he’ll veto it.

Depending on when the bill were to reach Kasich’s desk and when he might exercise his veto power, it might push a veto override vote to the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Lawmakers are scheduled to wrap up the two-year legislative session on Dec. 19.

Getting 60 House members and 20 senators to return to Columbus for a veto override during the holidays could prove difficult, especially since Governor-elect Mike DeWine has said he would sign a heartbeat bill.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said the strategy of passing the bill now or early next year won’t make a significant difference since the fetal heartbeat bill would likely take years to wind its way through a court challenge.

Another bill being considered

The Ohio House is considering another abortion bill that Ohio Right to Life named as its top priority. Senate Bill 145 would ban dilation and evacuation, a procedure commonly used in abortions performed between 13 and 24 weeks gestation. In 2015, nearly 3,000 D&E abortions were performed in Ohio, according to state records.

The House Criminal Justice Committee voted 5-3 along party lines in favor of sending the bill to the floor for a vote.

Related: Common abortion surgical procedure under fire in Ohio

During Republican Kasich’s eight years as governor, he has signed more than a dozen abortion restrictions, including:

* a bill that makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions if the woman wants to terminate because the fetus may have Down syndrome;

* a ban on abortions after 20 weeks gestation; a mandate that clinics have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies;

* stricter standards for juveniles seeking a judicial bypass instead of parental consent to terminate their pregnancies;

* and a prohibition on public hospitals performing abortions or holding transfer agreements.

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