A committee of the Republican-led Ohio House has voted along party lines to pass the latest version of the “Heartbeat Bill,” which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. A full House vote is expected Wednesday.
Tuesday's vote came after the House Health Committee altered the bill, now called the "Human Rights Protection Act," to assure state rules allow heartbeat detection by transvaginal ultrasound. It's effective earlier in pregnancy than other non-invasive technologies. The bill also includes criminal penalties against doctors who perform abortions.
The bill could ban abortions as early as six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. Currently, Ohio bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and has additional laws banning common abortion methods after 12 weeks.
Committee leaders debated whether to hear testimony on the bill, but ultimately allowed it. Democrats expressed anger, even tears, ahead of the vote, arguing the “Heartbeat Bill” will disenfranchise poor and minority women, penalize doctors and prompt young Ohioans to move out-of-state.
Kimberly Inez Maguire asked the committee to put themselves in the shoes of a woman facing an unplanned or difficult pregnancy.
“Please consider the inevitability that someone you love will need an abortion," Maguire said.
But that didn’t sway Republican state Rep. Candice Keller, who runs a pro-life pregnancy center.
“Someone you love will need an abortion? How ridiculous," Keller said. "What a thing to say."
Keller theorized the ban empowers women over fathers and male "abortionists," whom she said hold sway over pregnancies.
Democrats attempted repeatedly to introduce amendments to the bill, including amendments to respect people with different religious views on abortion; to establish comprehensive sex education; to repeal a state law defunding Planned Parenthood; to establish a fund providing for women’s health; to remove criminal penalties for doctors; and to allow abortions in the cases of fetal abnormalities. All were rejected by the Republican majority.
The final House committee vote was 11-7.
The Ohio Senate passed its version of the bill last month. Any changes made in the Ohio House version will have to be reconciled in committee before the bill goes to Gov. Mike DeWine.
The “Heartbeat Bill” has passed the Ohio legislature twice before, both times meeting a veto from then-Gov. John Kasich. But Gov. Mike DeWine said previously he would sign the “Heartbeat Bill” into law.
Abortion opponents hope the legislation will spark a legal challenge that overturns the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 "Roe v. Wade" decision.