State senators voted 18-13 on Wednesday in favor of legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heart beat can be detected, setting up a likely showdown with Gov. John Kasich who two years ago vetoed a similar measure.
The Senate added a last minute change: transvaginal ultrasounds to check for a fetal heartbeat would not be required. That technology can detect a heartbeat as early as six weeks, which is often before women know they are pregnant.
An abdominal ultrasound is less precise. One study found that technology can detect a heart beat as early as seven weeks gestation, though it is more accurate later into a pregnancy.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Dave Burke, R-Marysville, said the amendment was added because “We found that (a transvaginal ultrasound) process is possibly intrusive and we wanted to protect the rights of women who didn’t wish to have that done to them.”
Debate over the bill was emotional and divisive.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, a long-time opponent of abortion, said: “In our hearts we know this is a human life, this is some thing very special, very unique and something we should be cherishing.”
The vote brought shouts of “Shame!” from members of the Senate gallery audience.
The Senate also included a change that would empower the State Medical Board of Ohio to suspend the license of physicians who violate the so-called heartbeat ban, rather than wait until there is a criminal conviction. The president of the Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis, is a member of the medical board.
Jaime Miracle of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said “This bill is just as dangerous still.”
Senate Democrats offered amendments that would have added exemptions for victims of rape or incest, expanded the exemption for when a woman’s health is in danger to include mental health and allow hospitals to offer emergency contraception to sexual assault victims. Those amendments were tabled, largely along party line votes.
Because the senate changed House Bill 258, it will require House concurrence before it is sent to Kasich.
If it becomes law, it is likely to be challenged in court — a process that is expected to take years before it would reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
A second abortion bill, which would prohibit a common surgical procedure used in second trimester terminations, is pending in the Ohio House.
Laura Bischoff is our Columbus bureau reporter and covers politics and state government. She keeps a close eye on elected leaders, public employees and taxpayer money. Bischoff tries to write stories that inform voters, hold leaders accountable and strengthen democracy.