The state of Ohio’s Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill that would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion once the heartbeat of the baby can be detected (typically occurs six weeks after conception). The bill has been termed the “Heartbeat Bill” and is currently sitting on Ohio Governor John Kasich’s desk, waiting to be signed into law.
Despite a strong majority vote by the House (56-39), the bill is controversial for a few of reasons. The first reason being that the “heartbeat” wording making abortions illegal after six weeks of pregnancy was tacked on to another measure, House Bill 493. Originally, the focus of House Bill 493 was to streamline the process for medical professionals to be able to report child abuse. On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, Sen. Kris Jordan, a republican, called for the wording of the “Heartbeat Bill” to be added to House Bill 493, and the amendment to the bill passed by a 21-10 vote by state senators.
However, some senators were not happy with the amendment. Democratic Sen. Charleta Tavares told CNN, “We allowed a good bill that protects the health and safety of our children to be bastardized into a government takeover of women’s wombs.”
Another reason this bill is so controversial is because six weeks doesn’t give a woman a very long time to make a decision about whether she wants to keep the baby or not. In some cases, the woman may not even be aware she’s pregnant before that time. Pro-choice supporters see this bill as a violation of a woman’s right to choose what to do in the case of pregnancy. Additionally, it makes no exceptions for the victims of rape or incest.
Sen. Jordan sees the bill differently, however. In a statement on the bill, he places the emphasis on protecting children, saying, “The passage of this legislation in the Ohio Senate demonstrates our commitment to protecting the children of Ohio at every stage of life.” He also called the Ohio Senate “a pro-life caucus.”
Ohio isn’t the first state to try passing a bill such as this. Arkansas and North Dakota have tried to adopt similar “heartbeat” laws, only to have their bills deemed unconstitutional in federal courts. Pushback on the bill is inevitable, according to people on both sides of the abortion issue. The ACLU of Ohio has already tweeted, “Just a reminder, if the unconstitutional #HeartBeatBill passes and becomes law, we will challenge in court.”
Gov. Kasich has 10 days to decide whether or not to sign the bill into law. If signed, it will become the strictest anti-abortion bill in the country. Kasich is seen as a pro-life supporter and even signed a bill earlier this year banning the state from contracting with any organization that promotes or performs abortions for health services. This move was seen as a way to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. However, when the “Heartbeat Bill” has come up in the past, Kasich has voiced concerns over it.
The sudden resurgence in pushing this bill has been attributed to Donald Trump’s election win. Given the federal court battle that will ensue if Kasich signs the bill into law, people like Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, are pointing the obvious out: “Clearly this bill’s supporters are hoping that President-elect Trump will have the chance to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with justices poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade.”
Now it’s up to Gov. Kasich to decide if the federal court battle is worth fighting.