Ohio House Passes Controversial 'Fetal Heartbeat' Anti-Abortion Bill

If bill becomes law, it would allow only about 6 weeks to obtain a legal abortion in the state, often before a woman knows she's pregnant.

The Ohio House of Representatives for the second time has passed a bill outlawing abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Because of the legislation’s extremely short period for a legal abortion, the measure would bar abortions for women who don’t realize they are pregnant until it’s too late.

“It’s often the case that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant until after six weeks,” said Democratic state Rep. Nickie Antonio. “This is especially true for women who are emotionally traumatized by rape.”

There are no exceptions in the bill for rape or incest. Doctors violating the measure could face felony charges and up to a year in prison.

GOP Rep. Ron Hood, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the measure would stop “babies” from being “slaughtered before they’re even born.” Hood said during floor debate that he hoped the measure would be used to challenge Roe v. Wade.

Both the House and Senate of the Ohio General Assembly passed a similar bill in 2016, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, who said it would not survive a constitutional challenge.

This bill, which passed the state House on a 59-to-35 vote, is now with the state Senate, which could quickly take action. It’s unclear if the legislature would have the necessary votes to override another Kasich veto. Republican Gov.-elect Mike DeWine, who takes office Jan. 14, has said he would sign such a measure, reported The Columbus Dispatch.

Even supporters of the measure have worried that such a law wouldn’t survive a court challenge. But more are optimistic since President Donald Trump has made two conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, noted the Dispatch.

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, agreed that the legislation is particularly concerning now, given the new makeup of the Supreme Court. “For 45 years, the Supreme Court has upheld that a person has the right to their bodily autonomy,” she noted.

Iowa passed a heartbeat anti-abortion law in May, which at the time was the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban. A judge in June suspended enforcement of the law while its future is decided in court.

Courts have so far rejected a number of other state laws that sought to significantly reduce the time a woman can seek an abortion.

Just over half (52 percent) of Iowans surveyed in a Des Moines Register/Medciacom Iowa Poll last month said they believed the law goes too far. But voters in the midterm elections generally chose politicians who supported the law.

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