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Government and Politics

Ohio Senate president taking a step to block heartbeat bill
Supporters of the bill have threatened to bring it on the floor for a vote without leardership

Jo Ingles

The president of Ohio’s Senate has taken unusual steps to make sure the heartbeat abortion bill does not come up for a vote by his members during the lame duck session. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports a rarely used procedure has been employed to keep the bill sidetracked in a Senate committee.

Ingles on the heartbeat bill

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Ingles on the heartbeat bill abridged version

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When Senate President Tom Neihaus said earlier this week that the senate would not be voting on the heartbeat abortion bill during the lame duck session, backers of that legislation threatened to use an unusual tactic known as a discharge petition to have the bill brought on the senate floor for a vote without the blessing of leadership.  Now, in this latest salvo, Niehaus has removed two leaders of a senate committee then took a vote to refer the legislation that would ban abortion at the point a fetal heartbeat can be heard into that committee.

“The effect of this move is the bill now comes in to the rules and reference committee and a discharge petition cannot be issued on a bill until it’s been in that committee for 30 days.  That means the earliest that any discharge petition can be issued is December 29th.  I don’t expect to be here on December 29th.  So in my opinion, it is effectively said that we are not going to take this bill up in the 129th general assembly.”

Niehaus says he’s tired of his members being bullied by backers of the heartbeat bill.

“I’m all for people advocating for and being passionate about their position but threatening, in my opinion, is going over the line.  And we saw tactics that I didn’t appreciate and my members didn’t appreciate and for a small number of the pro life community to target the most pro life senators in recent memory was to me outrageous.”

Niehaus says he’s talked with the bill’s backers in the past and outlined conditions that must be met for the bill to move forward.  And one of those conditions hinged on Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney being elected.  That didn’t happen so Niehaus says it’s not prudent to move forward with a bill that he says is unconstitutional.

“The reelection of President Obama signaled that if there are going to be new justices elected to the Supreme Court that they will be less favorable to the so called heartbeat bill.  So the risk became do you send a bill to the US Supreme Court that has the potential to undermine all of the good work that the right to life community has done over the previous decades?”

Heartbeat Bill Backer Janet Folger Porter answers that concern this way:

“The constitutionality is not the issue.  We’ve gone through that over and over and over.  And In the bill there is a severability section that says this bill will not affect any other Ohio legislation – period.  So that’s not the issue.”

Folger Porter believes the issue is Niehaus has a personal vendetta against her.

“If you don’t like something I may have done, all I ask is don’t take it out on babies. I just would have thought the outgoing president of the senate is bigger than that.”

Folger Porter says her supporters have not bullied Ohio Senators with their numerous public attempts to get the bill passed.  And she says she’s not giving up the fight.

“I’m going to quit working on house bill 125 on December 31st.  And if we have to go into next session, then it will have a lower number….somewhere between SB 1 or 2.  But we are going to keep knocking on the door until even an unrighteous legislator opens it up and does what we ask.”

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