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'Heartbeat Bill' Passes Ohio House and Senate

photo of protestors
Protestors outside the Ohio House Chamber before the passage of the Heartbeat Bill.

A controversial bill that bans abortion from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected has passed the Ohio House and Senate. This marks the third time state lawmakers have passed what’s been called the “Heartbeat Bill.” But this time will likely be the last because Gov. Mike DeWine says he’ll sign it into law.

Opponents of the bill, which bans abortions around six weeks, gathered outside the House chamber even before the debate started inside.

Then one by one, lawmakers spoke out. Some Democrats shared their personal stories of unplanned pregnancies or abortion.

Representative Allison Russo (D-Columbus) told a story about her great grandmother’s experience in the days before Roe vs Wade. 

“She attempted to give herself an abortion, and it went horribly wrong and she bled to death in that bathtub and died.”

Others talked of their faith. Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem), a Republican who is also an ordained minister, read verses from the Biblical book of Jeremiah.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. My question would be this: why would God call and appoint a mass of cells to be a prophet before he was born?”

Republican Candice Keller (R-Middletown), a staunch abortion opponent who runs a pro-life pregnancy center, told her fellow lawmakers this bill was based on science.

“Modern science is clear on this and to ignore a heartbeat is to deny the scientific evidence and to deny such evidence is heartless.”

Democrat Beth Liston (D, Worthington) a physician and internal medicine professor at Ohio State University, countered that saying a fetal heartbeat is not a standard of defining life in medicine.

“Simply put, you needed lungs and a brain in order to be able to live and there’s no science or technology that we have that can replace that need.”

Much debate, no change in positions
But all of the debate didn’t seem to change minds. Republicans mostly voted for it – Democrats mostly voted against it.

As soon as the bill passed the House, the Senate immediately convened to vote to agree with the House’s changes to it. Republican Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Ashland) says this bill had plenty of scrutiny.

“This was a reasoned, measured approach that has been thoroughly that has been debated in the legislature than perhaps any bill ever.”

The next step
The bill passed twice during Gov. John Kasich’s eight-year term and he vetoed it both times - most recently last year.  Gov. Mike DeWine says he will sign the bill and once he does, it’s almost certain it will be challenged in court - something its backers, such as Republican Representative Ron Hood (R, Ashville) welcome.

“Will there be a lawsuit? Yea, we are counting on it. We’re counting on it. We’re excited about it.”

Similar bills have passed in several other states but courts have stopped the bans from taking effect.

Editor's note: This story has been udpated with additional information.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.