Friday, November 21, 2014
By Marc Kovac
A lawmaker panel moved controversial legislation Thursday that would ban abortions within weeks of conception.
The split vote by the Ohio House’s Health Committee came after more than three hours of testimony from proponents and opponents on what’s been titled the Heartbeat Bill, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing.
Whether HB 248 moves any further through the legislative process, however, remains in question.
HB 248 would prohibit abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, with exceptions in cases where the mother’s life or physical health is in danger. Comparable legislation passed the Ohio House last session but stalled in the Senate.
Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Alliance, primary co-sponsor of HB 248, said additional language was added to the bill this session to create a legislative committee “to promote adoption to prepare for the babies who’ll be saved once the Heartbeat law is enacted,” plus “an inspector to verify that the requirements of the bill are being met.”
Proponents believe the legislation could serve as the vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade, the nearly four-decade-old U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Opponents, however, think the Heartbeat Bill goes too far; some abortion opponents say the resulting legal challenges could end up undoing other abortion-related restrictions in state law.
Both sides of the debate offered testimony at Thursday’s Health Committee hearing.
Lauran Bunting held her 5-year-old daughter, conceived as the result of a rape, and urged passage of the bill.
Columbus pediatrician Dennis Doody said evolving medical technologies have provided a better understanding of life inside the womb.
“The detection of a heartbeat is a standard universally accepted proof of life,” he said. “A person, born or yet unborn, is always considered alive when the heartbeat is detected.”
But Anita Somani, a Columbus-area obstetrician, said the legislation would hinder her ability to guide patients in their care.
“As a physician who takes care of pregnant women every day, I would like to be able to offer my patients every option for prenatal care, including genetic testing,” she said. “I and other OB/GYNs like myself want to give balanced, unbiased advice to their patients without government restrictions and the threat of criminal wrongdoing.”
Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the legislation would be challenged and proved unconstitutional. He promised his group would file suit if it’s signed into law.