Ohio lawmakers approve bill prohibiting abortion after fetal heartbeat detection News
Ohio lawmakers approve bill prohibiting abortion after fetal heartbeat detection
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[JURIST] The Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 on Tuesday to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The “heartbeat bill” provides no exceptions [Reuters report] for rape, incest or the life or health of the mother. The law effectively challenges the US Supreme Court [official website] decision in Roe v. Wade [opinion] which upheld a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is “viable,” usually at 22-24 weeks. Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) [advocacy website] does not support any effort to pass the bill, saying that the law would likely be deemed unconstitutional and facing a federal lawsuit would be costly to taxpayers. Marshall Pitchford, Chairman of the ORTL Board of Trustees, expressed his concerns [statement, PDF] with the bill:

As excitement and support continues to build for our legislative agenda, we are reminded of our responsibility as the Ohio Right to Life Society, the state’s largest and longest serving pro life organization, to advise our elected officials of other initiatives that come before them which will have negative effects and unintended consequences. H.B. 125, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” is one such measure which will do just that.

The House passed two other abortion-related bills on Tuesday. HB 78 [text], which was already passed [JURIST report] in the Ohio Senate [official website], bans late-term abortions after 20 weeks if a doctor determines that the fetus is viable outside the womb. HB 79 [text] prohibits qualified health plans from providing coverage for non-therapeutic abortions.

Ohio is one of many states to introduce more restrictive abortion regulations in recent months. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy {JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. Last month, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites] filed a lawsuit challenging a South Dakota law [JURIST reports] requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. Earlier that week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton [official website] vetoed a pair of bills [JURIST report] that restricted state funding for abortions and banned them altogether after 20 weeks. Also in May, Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed into law a bill that requires women seeking an abortion to first get a sonogram [JURIST report]. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].