Ohio Lawmakers Pass "Heartbeat Abortion" Ban Bill But Will It Become Law?

Dec 14, 2018

A controversial bill that bans abortion at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected is on its way to Gov. John Kasich. Overnight, the Ohio House passed the bill 53-32 with changes made by the Senate Tuesday.

It was nearly 1:30 in the morning when the House approved changes to the bill made by the Senate, saying transvaginal or internal ultrasounds are no longer required. Those can detect a fetal heartbeat as early as six weeks gestation. Other ultrasounds can detect a heartbeat between eight and 10 weeks. 

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Representative Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) agreed with the changes made by the Senate. "It is to ensure that the doctor has the means to choose which methodology they prefer in that scenario and by no means does this bill, in any way, dictate what that might be," Hagan said.

Opponents of the bill note it doesn't allow exemptions for rape or incest victims. Representative Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) read from a letter given to her by a woman who was a victim of rape and incest at the age of 13. "If you had looked a 13-year-old me in the eyes and told me that I should be forced to give birth, I would have taken every pill in my Mother's medicine cabinet and kill myself rather than to have a permanent physical scar to remind me," Sykes read on the floor of the Ohio House.

There wasn’t much debate on the bill but, then again, so much had been said about it in House and Senate sessions in recent days. Opponents of the ban say it’s unconstitutional. But supporters of the bill say they think it will withstand legal scrutiny and think the U.S. Supreme Court, with its newest members, would uphold the legislation. Lower courts have stopped similar laws in Iowa, Arkansas and North Dakota but backers of Ohio’s so called “Heartbeat Bill” say it was designed to be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The question of constitutionality isn’t the only one surrounding this bill. Gov. John Kasich says he’ll veto it, just as he did a similar bill that was passed during the Lame Duck session of the previous General Assembly back in 2016. And if that happens, lawmakers will have to return during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and try to override, which would take 60 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate. When lawmakers faced the same scenario two years ago, they did not come back to override the veto. But legislative leaders say they think they can do it this time around.

This bill isn’t the only abortion ban Kasich will have on his desk. Lawmakers have approved another that bans dilation and extraction, a method that is commonly used in abortions after 12 weeks of gestation. That bill, unlike the “Heartbeat Bill,” has the backing of Ohio Right to Life. It is believed Kasich will sign this ban into law. Two years ago, when he vetoed that “Heartbeat Bill,” he signed a 20-week abortion ban into law.