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Glenn Holmes votes for ‘heartbeat’ bill

House legislation would restrict abortion rights

WARREN — A Girard lawmaker said he was one of only two Ohio House Democrats to vote in favor of a bill that would drastically decrease the amount of time a woman has to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term — to before a heartbeat is detected — because he is inherently pro-life.

Ohio Rep. Glenn Holmes said he thought hard about his “yes” vote and it wasn’t easy. Holmes said he doesn’t believe in party-line voting and voted “yes” even though he believes the bill is probably unconstitutional.

“I believe life begins at conception and someone has to protect the baby’s life. There are a lot of moving parts to this, a lot of internal struggle, a lot of weighing the baby’s life with a mother’s rights. And a father’s rights, too, should be taken into account. We have to draft laws to address all angles of the issue, while being sensitive to the fact that the baby has no protection. I believe in prevention and birth control, but responsibility comes into play,” Holmes said.

Cleveland Democrat Rep. Bill Patmon is the only other member of Holmes’ party to vote in favor of the bill. Seven Republican lawmakers voted against the bill: Marlene Anielski of Walton Hills, Steven Arndt of Port Clinton, Rick Carfagna of Genoa Township, Nathan H. Manning of North Ridgeville, Mike Duffey of Worthington, Scott K. Ryan of Granville Township and Anne Gonzales of Westerville.

The “yes” votes from Holmes and Patmon give the Republicans a supermajority, meaning it is possible to override a governor’s veto of the “heartbeat bill.” Three-fifths of lawmakers have to vote “yes” to override a governor’s veto.

Outgoing Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill restricting abortion rights in 2016, but signed a law restricting abortion to before 20 weeks of gestation.

Ohio Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, voted against the bill.

“First of all, the bill is unconstitutional. Year after year, it has been brought up and year after year, Kasich has vetoed it,” O’Brien said. “There is no exception for rape or incest. And a lot of the time, a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant that early. The Republicans rejected every amendment proposed.”

O’Brien and Holmes said they don’t believe the issue will progress, but a local senator said he has a “gut feeling” it will.

Both bills go next to the Senate, which convenes Nov. 28, Dec. 4 and Dec. 12, said Ohio Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta. Sen. O’Brien said he believes Republican Senate leadership will take the issue up in the lame-duck session before the new General Assembly or governor is seated.

“It is speculation, but yes, my gut feeling is that they will bring it to a vote,” Sen. O’Brien said.

He would likely vote against the bill, but he would read the amendments added while the bill is in committee first, Sen. O’Brien said.

Holmes said although he voted with his conscience in supporting the bill, he did so as “more of a statement.”

“If there are not significant changes to the proposal, I will vote ‘no’ on something like this the next time around,” Holmes said.

Holmes admitted some of the elements of the bill are extreme, such as there are no exceptions for rape and incest. However, there are exceptions when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. And Holmes acknowledged many women don’t know they are pregnant by the time the fetus has a heartbeat.

“The bill is probably unconstitutional, but there can be fixes to make it more palatable. Although I don’t know if anyone that is pro-choice will ever be behind it,” Holmes said.

Holmes said it is difficult to balance the “protection of a baby” with the protection of the mother’s choice because one of the parties has “no choice.”

On Wednesday, House lawmakers also approved “stand your ground” gun legislation that eliminates a requirement to retreat in confrontations before using deadly force.

The House voted 64-26 in favor of the bill, a supermajority large enough to override Kasich’s expected veto.

Holmes and Rep. O’Brien both voted against that bill.

“I voted against the bill because I believe you should have to be able to affirm why it was necessary to use deadly force. It is is about the sanctity of life,” Holmes said.

Backers say the bill puts Ohio in line with about 35 other states.

“This bill is a huge step forward to providing the citizens of Ohio with clearer and concise gun laws and clarifying their right to bear arms,” said Rep. Terry Johnson, a Republican from McDermott in southern Ohio.

Holmes tied his “no” vote to that bill to his pro-life stance.

Rep. O’Brien said he voted “no” because of the opposition to the bill from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Chief of Police Association and the Ohio Prosecutor’s Association.

“In my opinion, those are the experts of law enforcement in our state, and if they are opposed to any type of gun bill, I absolutely concur with those experts,” Rep. O’Brien said.

Sen. O’Brien said he also expects the gun bill to come before state Senate before the end of the session and he is likely to vote against it.

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