‘Heartbeat’ bill passes Ohio House

Holmes switches vote as bill heads to Kasich’s desk

The Ohio House of Representatives approved the newest version of the “heartbeat” abortion bill around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

The bill severely reduces the time in which a woman can end a pregnancy and also punishes doctors who don’t comply with a felony charge, a fine and a license suspension even before he or she is found guilty. The bill includes no exceptions for rape or incest.

The bill passed 53-32, laregly along party lines. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with 18 Republican “yes” votes. Four Republicans joined the nine Democrats who voted “no.”

The Senate took out a measure the House approved requiring doctors to use an ultrasound machine that is inserted into a woman’s vagina that can detect a fetal heartbeat around six weeks. The other type of ultrasound machine that is used on the outside of a woman’s body is capable of detecting a heartbeat around 11 weeks. Abortions now are legal up until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The House passed the bill in November, with a “yes” from Girard Democrat Rep. Glenn Holmes, who then said he won’t vote in favor of the bill again, even though he believes in trying to reduce the number of abortions performed in Ohio. Holmes voted against the bill Friday, and Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, also voted “no.”

Abortions in Ohio have been declining. Approximately 20,000 are done per year, many with medication early in the pregnancy, according to statistics from the state.

The Ohio Senate would need 20 votes to override a likely veto of the bill by Gov. John Kasich. The House needs 60 votes to override a veto. In 2016, Kasich vetoed a similar bill and has vowed to do the same again. Kasich said he thinks the bill is unconstitutional.

Some opponents of the bill say it was specifically crafted just to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortions federally, with a more conservative bench seated with President Donald Trump’s appointees.

Similar bills have been turned over by federal judges.

It is unclear if the General Assembly will have time to convene again after the veto in order to override it, even if it does have enough votes. The bill could be reintroduced when the next General Assembly convenes in January, and the incoming governor, Mike DeWine, has said he would support such a bill.

About 35 individuals or organizations have offered testimony supporting the bill since it was introduced in November 2017, including the Ohio Christian Alliance, Let Them Live and churches. Most proponents testified as individuals.

“Critics of the Heartbeat Bill will often claim that if we protect the lives of these children, we are dooming them to a life of poverty and pain. But having worked in homeless shelters and with hurting people, I can tell you that poverty and hardship in and of themselves do not rob people of dignity. What robs Ohioans of dignity is looking at a child who may come into a difficult situation and saying they would be better off if they were never born,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values.

About 90 individuals and organizations testified against the bill, including The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Ohio State Medical Association, Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Medical Professionals of Ohio, Catholics for Choice and several doctors.

“It is critical for government to refrain from regulations that come between a patient and her physician. The provision of medical care must be a matter determined by the patient and her physician; interference in the physician-patient relationship should not be taken lightly. Medical situations are never one-size fits all; every woman’s circumstance is unique, so her physician needs to be able to provide guidance that is relevant, appropriate and in their best medical judgment; and the patient needs to be able to trust that her physician is providing appropriate counsel,” wrote Dr. Wayne Trout, chair of the Ohio Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The president of Catholics for Choice said abortion is a personal choice and not something in which legislatures need to insert themselves.

“As Catholics, in full accordance with the teachings of our faith, we shape and advance sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women’s well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women to make moral decisions about their lives. We support each woman’s ability to make deeply personal choices that are right for her and her family, including whether to become or remain pregnant, according to her own beliefs and conscience,” wrote Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice.


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