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Ohio pro-life groups divided over heartbeat bill

State legislature passes bill banning abortion after about 22 days despite court rulings against similar measures

A large balloon in support of the Heartbeat Bill flies outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press/Photo by Ann Sanner, File

Ohio pro-life groups divided over heartbeat bill

Ohio lawmakers pushed through a bill Tuesday night that would ban abortion after a baby’s heart begins beating, about 22 days after conception.

The bill, tucked by Ohio senators into House Bill 493, a child abuse reporting amendment, is now headed to Gov. John Kasich’s desk. House lawmakers passed the bill Tuesday in a 56-39 vote.

Courts have struck down similar bills passed in Arkansas and North Dakota for imposing an unconstitutional barrier to abortion. Given that precedent, the heartbeat bill isn’t likely to stand up to challenges in the courts, and pro-life leaders in Ohio have given it mixed reviews.

“Cincinnati Right to Life, the entire statewide Ohio pro-life coalition, and all else who have supported the Unborn Heartbeat Protection bill the past several years thanks and congratulates the Ohio Senate on this momentous vote,” Paula Westwood, director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, said in a statement. “We look forward to passage of H.B. 493 with Heartbeat protection amendment in the Ohio House, and Governor Kasich’s immediate support.”

But Ohio Right to Life, the state’s biggest pro-life organization, remains “neutral” on the bill, spokeswoman Katherine Franklin told me.

“We really want the strongest legislation possible to go before the Supreme Court, and right now just at this time we really believe that a more incremental step is the way to go,” she said.

The organization is focusing on legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks, based on an unborn baby’s ability to feel pain. It would tug further on current standards, which ban abortion at 24 weeks, the official age of viability since the early 1990s.

As babies survive outside the womb at earlier and earlier ages, the 24-week mark “has proven increasingly unworkable,” Franklin said. “Ohio Right to Life and the national pro-life movement really sees it as our responsibility to pose a new standard that would be palatable to the Supreme Court.”

The proposed new standard would be the capability of unborn babies to feel pain, rather than their viability outside the womb.

In June, the Ohio Senate passed a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, but it still must pass the House and get the governor’s signature.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha is a freelancer for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hillsdale College, and has a multiple-subject teaching credential from California State University. Samantha resides in Chico, Calif., with her husband and their two sons.


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