Ohio ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill sent to House for 3rd time

COLUMBUS — Ohio state representatives will get their third chance in as many sessions Wednesday to approve a bill effectively banning abortions after the first detectable heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Allegiances appear to have changed little on the so-called heartbeat bill since it first emerged in 2011, with the Community & Family Advancement Committee voting it out 11-4 on Wednesday along mostly party lines. A floor vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Democrats offered a series of amendments seeking to draw attention to what they saw as related issues: contraceptives for rape survivors, insurance coverage for pregnant women and guaranteed maternity leave. All were summarily shot down by Chairman Tim Derickson, a Hanover Township Republican, as “not germane to the bill.”

Rep. Michele Lapore-Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, said the bill was an overreach.

“We need to keep politicians in the Statehouse and allow women to make those kind of decisions about their own bodies,” she said.

The Republican-dominated panel also rejected attempts by Democrats to add exceptions to the ban for victims of rape and incest and to omit criminal penalties for abortion doctors.

Despite the disagreements, Derickson said he was heartened by the fact that lawmakers, witnesses and members of the public managed to remain civil amid some tears and professions of faith.

“With all that’s going on in this world that is evil, it is easy to kind of lose track of where we’re going as a country and as a people,” Derickson said. “And the civility and respect that I see here gives me hope that we can disagree to our core and respect each other through our votes.”

If passed, the bill would be one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in America.

It is viewed by its champions at the anti-abortion group Faith2Action as having the potential to draw a pivotal constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions. Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, has declined to endorse it.

The House passed the same bill two sessions ago, but it died in the Senate. The measure reached the House floor again last session, but was unexpectedly defeated.