The Ohio State Legislature has approved a controversial anti-abortion bill that is so extreme in its language that even pro-lifers have hesitated voicing support for it, putting abortion rights for women at a new precipice of danger.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, State Senator Kris Jordan from Ohio’s 19th District introduced the bill. “This is just flat-out the right thing to do,” Jordan said, “It affords the most important liberty of all—the opportunity to live.”
Ohio’s Senate passed the bill on Wednesday morning; by Wednesday afternoon, Ohio’s House had cleared the bill 56-39. The next step before becoming law is having the state’s governor, former GOP presidential candidate John Kasich, sign the bill into law.
Named “the Heartbeat Bill,” the law would make it illegal for a woman to pursue an abortion once a heartbeat was detected in the fetus — which normally occurs at the six-week point. What makes this especially fragile as a timeframe is the fact that most women don’t know they are even pregnant until they’ve skipped a couple periods — irregular periods are not abnormal, and it normally takes a couple months of missing them to clue a woman into the fact that she may actually be pregnant. Furthermore, even if a woman does realize that she’s pregnant — around week four is the earliest a woman can viably be considered pregnant — it leaves just two weeks for a woman to follow through, make a decision about her unborn child, and — should she choose to abort — follow through in a swift, but safe, manner.
Science still hasn’t been able to pinpoint the exact moment an embryo comes to be, much less when a fetus is declared a living organism with a right to life. In 2016 alone, scientists have stumbled into our understanding of embryology with tricking an egg into becoming an embryo and having couples unable to have children partner up with a third parent to create viable fetuses. In other words, our definition of when life begins remains fuzzy at best.
Many anti-abortion advocates have voiced concern about the extreme bill, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest victims. Complicating matters is the fact that the Heartbeat Bill was tacked onto a child abuse prevention bill, which would otherwise have had near unanimous support without the abortion provisions embedded within it. The Heartbeat Bill, however, was woven into it as a last-minute amendment, which many view as not only slimy politics but also medically dangerous. “It is cruel and plainly unconstitutional, but it seems like Ohio Republicans don’t care about the Constitution,” Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus Chair Kathy DiCristofaro said. “Trump’s vision for America is already alive and well in the Buckeye State.”
It’s not surprising then that the Heartbeat Bill has garnered scorn and fear, with critics lashing onto it as a blatant attempt to destroy Roe v. Wade. The battle to maintain abortion rights has seen renewed debate after the election of Donald Trump, particularly due to his vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s staunch stance against abortion. And it’s why Ohio representatives are arguing that abortion deserves a renewed look, potentially laying the path towards toppling Roe v. Wade. “A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Ohio State Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, told The Columbus Dispatch when asked why the measure suddenly got tacked on.
For his part, Kasich hasn’t commented on where he stands on the bill. In the past, Kasich — a conservative that has quietly shuttered half his state’s abortion clinics — has opposed variations of the Heartbeat Bill on constitutional grounds. Kasich could technically “line-item veto” the Heartbeat Bill aspect of the legislation, since it comes with a $100,000 appropriation to create a Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion.
And even if Kasich does pass the law, it will probably land itself in a state Supreme Court and be found unconstitutional, since it outright goes against Roe v. Wade’s guarantee that a woman has a right to an abortion.
The bill is so strict, that even some pro-life groups are distancing themselves from it, fearing it will eventually be shot down in court. Governor Kasich has said he makes an exception on abortion in cases of rape and incest; the Heartbeat Bill does not.
Still, that does little to ease the frayed, worried nerves of female health advocates of abortion. Similar bills have been attempted in North Dakota and Arkansas, and while an incoming Trump administration will probably not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, Trump and his Cabinet have pledged to make it difficult, or nearly impossible for a woman to get an abortion safely.