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DeWine warns Ohio lawmakers to exercise caution when considering abortion ban changes

BULLHORN ABORTION RIGHTS PROTESTER
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
An activist leads the crowd in a chant at an abortion rights rally at the Ohio Statehouse on May 14, 2022.

The Ohio lawmakers who wanted to pass a total abortion ban during the lame duck session might have to wait until next year to make another attempt at the measure. But state lawmakers are looking at how to update the existing abortion ban that’s been put on hold by a court.

There is a bill in this legislature that could ban abortion at the point of conception but when asked whether it will pass during this lame duck session of the legislature, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said, “I can’t say firmly yes or firmly no but I think that’s highly unlikely."

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said members in his GOP dominated chamber are talking about how they might change abortion law in Ohio by making changes to the existing abortion ban that’s been put on hold by a Hamilton County court.

That law bans abortion at the point fetal electrical cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It allows for exceptions when it comes to protecting the life of the mother but when putting the ban on hold, the court said the language was too vague.

While there’s no language to clarify that law yet, Cupp said lawmakers will likely consider some measure in the Ohio House. When asked if the public will be given an opportunity to weigh-in on it, Cupp said “I imagine that they will. I think the public has been weighing in for quite a while."

Ohioans on all sides of the issue have been weighing in recently through protests and public testimony. Abortion was a key issue stressed by Democrats running for statewide office though Republicans downplayed it as a talking point during the campaigns.

Polls show Ohioans favor some abortion rights and want some exceptions for rape and incest that are not currently allowed in the law that’s been put on hold.

Gov. Mike DeWine, who shied away from talking about the issue during the general election campaign, is cautioning lawmakers to remember that when coming up with language to change the bill.

“I would hope that the General Assembly would pass something that would last, that would not be overridden by a vote of the people. And I think it’s important the legislature think about that as they put this bill together," DeWine said.

That’s why Huffman said the Senate wants to land on a measure that strikes a compromise between Republican leaders.

“The Senate has to pass a bill that is acceptable to the House and is acceptable to the governor. And there are a lot of moving parts to that. And there are a lot of folks on both sides of the issue that have a different view of what that looks like. So, I think it will probably come down to the last couple of days of session," Huffman said.

Cupp has been insisting that this legislature wrap up its work mid-month and not continue up to the Christmas holiday.

But in past Lame Duck sessions, abortion bills have been up in the air during the last weeks of the year. In 2018, the Ohio Senate came back into session the week between Christmas and the New Year to try to override former Republican Governor John Kasich’s veto of the "heartbeat" bill, which fell just short.

The next year DeWine took office and signed the heartbeat bill into law.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.
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