Ohio ‘heartbeat bill’ bans abortion 6 weeks into pregnancy

Ohio ‘heartbeat bill’ bans abortion 6 weeks into pregnancy
Ohio Republicans are moving forward with a strict new bill that would ban abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be detected – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Known as the “Heartbeat bill”, or H.B. 248, the proposal advanced out of Ohio’s House Health and Aging Committee by a party line vote of 11 to 6. If it passes the House and Senate – both currently controlled by conservatives – then doctors who perform abortions after the limit would face a fifth-degree felony.

Those who oppose the bill say it bans abortion before a woman sometimes even knows she’s pregnant, yet supporters argued during the committee meeting that the heartbeat is undeniable proof of life.

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The members of the Health Committee are so callous that they refused to add amendments to provide exceptions for victims of rape and incest or to remove criminal penalties that could be used to imprison doctors that provide abortion care," Kellie Copeland, executive director of the Ohio chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said to Huffington Post. "The chilling effect of this crusade is being felt throughout the medical community and will no doubt result in talented physicians leaving Ohio to practice in other states.”

Even Republicans lawmakers are worried about the effect of the bill should it pass the Senate and the House. President of the State Senate Keith Faber (R) said the bill is “so extreme that it could undermine the anti-abortion cause. It could jeopardize some of the good, pro-life work that we’ve done in the General Assembly.”

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Additionally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said at the annual Republican Governors Association meeting that he worries about legal challenges to the measure, which many believe would violate the US Supreme Court's landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade. Kasich is opposed to abortion, though he makes an exception in the case of rape, incest or when the mother’s life in in jeopardy. The Heartbeat bill makes an exception only for the health of the mother.

Asked if he would sign the bill, he said, "It's a long way till it comes to my desk."

Before the vote, abortion rights advocates attacked the measure as unnecessary, dangerous and misogynist. The American Civil Liberties Union warned it would draw an immediate, costly legal challenge if passed.

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North Dakota is the only other state that has ever passed an abortion bill as extreme as the one pending in Ohio. That bill was struck down and declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in April.

Ohio is steadily making it harder for women in the state to obtain legal abortions. Existing anti-abortion laws are expected to shut down all of the Cincinnati-area abortion clinics. The State Senate has also approved the nomination of Rick Hodges to lead the Ohio Department of Health, a known opponent of legal abortion.