After more than an hour of heated debate, a controversial abortion ban that Gov. John Kasich vetoed two years ago passed the Ohio House on Thursday 60-35 and now heads to the Senate where its fate is unclear.
The ‘heartbeat bill’ would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
“This bill basically says if there is a heartbeat you cannot abort. If there is a heartbeat, there is life…there is no debating that,” said state Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, a primary sponsor. “We can finally save these babies from being slaughtered before they’re even born.”
“Abortion is an assault on the family. Abortion is an assault on Ohio because it destroys the hearts and minds of women,” said state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown. She said the bill would help save 20,000 babies each year in Ohio.
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State Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said Ohio’s 11 million residents are divided on the issue of abortion. “None of us can know the experiences of all the people of this state.”
She noted that the bill doesn’t include exemptions for women who are victims of rape, incest or domestic violence. “This is not an easy decision but it should be a survivor’s decision to make,” Antonio said.
“We all have a beating heart,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Twp., co-sponsor, while holding her twin infants on the House floor. She later added that she doesn’t think the “act of the father” shouldn’t cause the termination of a child.
State Rep. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, said the decision to terminate a pregnancy is up to the woman and she’ll be judged by God in the after life. She also argued that the ban would bring back dangerous illegal abortions. “I’m old enough to remember hangars, liquids, shotgun pellets,” she said.
The bill is strongly opposed by many Democrats and reproductive rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice. The Ohio Right to Life is neutral on the measure. It still has to win approval from the Ohio Senate before the two-year legislative session ends in late December.
Kasich has signed into law at least 18 abortion restrictions during his eight year tenure as governor. The heartbeat bill is the only abortion restriction he has vetoed.
Miami Valley area lawmakers voting in favor of the heartbeat ban bill were Republicans: Niraj Antani, John Becker, Tom Brinkman, Jim Butler, Keith Faber, Mike Henne, Steve Huffman, Candice Keller, Kyle Koehler, George Lang, Scott Lipps, Rick Perales, Wes Retherford, Todd Smith, Nino Vitale and Paul Zeltwanger. Opposed was House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton.
Last year, there were 20,893 induced abortions in Ohio, a 1-percent increase over 2016, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health. Of those, 11,784 were performed at nine weeks or less of gestation, 6,084 at between nine and 12 weeks, 2,935 at 13 to 20 weeks and 90 at 21 weeks or more, the report showed.
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, offered an amendment that would mandate comprehensive sex education in Ohio’s K-12 schools as a means of reducing unintended preganancies but that idea was tabled on a 62-31 vote.
Ohio Right to Life lobbyist Jessica Warner said the anti-abortion group is pushing for passage of two other restrictions: Senate Bill 28 would require burial or cremation of fetal remains and Senate Bill 145 would outlaw a common surgical procedure used for second trimester abortions.
SB 145 passed the Senate 24-9 in June, less than six weeks after its introduction, and is now pending in the House Criminal Justice Committee. It would make it a fourth degree felony for doctors to perform abortions using dilation and extraction, unless the woman’s life or irreversible bodily harm were at stake. It makes no exception for rape or incest.
The bill’s primary sponsor is state Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville.
SB28 passed the Senate 23-9 in January and is awaiting a House floor vote. If it becomes law, burial or cremation would be required for aborted fetal remains, including zygotes and blastocysts — the earliest stages of development.