Ohio Bill: Ban Abortion if Fetus has "Detectable Heartbeat"

| by Jill Stanek

I’ll be one of several pro-lifers speaking this Tuesday, September 20, at a rally at the Ohio State House Atrium in support of remarkable legislation known as the “Heartbeat Bill.”

House Bill 125 states no abortion can be committed in the State of Ohio if a baby has a “detectable heartbeat,” except “to prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

If the Heartbeat Bill is signed into law, almost every preborn baby in Ohio as young as 18 days old – which is the earliest the fetal heart starts beating – will be protected from abortion.

And the Heartbeat Bill is almost there. On June 28, it passed the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 54-43 and is now headed to the Senate, where Republicans dominate Democrats 23-10. If 17 of Ohio’s 33 state senators vote for HB 125, it will go to pro-life Republican Gov. John Kasich for his signature and then become the most protective pro-life law in the nation.

The Heartbeat Bill has accumulated an impressive list of supporters, including Dr.James Dobson, although there are pro-life groups in opposition.

Those include Ohio Right to LifeNational Right to Life’s state affiliate (although many of its county right to life groups have defected) and many in thePersonhood movement, including the American Life League and Dr. Alan Keyes.

Those in Ohio Right to Life’s camp think the heartbeat bill will ultimately fail in court and may do more harm than good, and those in the Personhood camp disavow it because it doesn’t seek to protect all preborn babies.

Heartbeat Bill supporters like me disagree with both those factions. On the former point, as Cleveland State University Law Professor David Forte testified on behalf of HB125:

Now, some say that we should not pass a bill that a court might disallow, that we should only pass bills that we are sure will be upheld. Frankly, I must say that this is a strange way of protecting the unborn. It surrenders to the status quo. There is no victory in allowing the vast majority of unborn humans to remain totally at risk.

Besides, such a stand-pat strategy flies in the face of history. Courts never change their minds unless they are invited to.

In 1995, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill banning partial birth abortions. It was the first in the nation. The law was struck down by a federal court. But Nebraska did not stand pat. It passed its own bill prohibiting partial birth abortions. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court voided the Nebraska statute outlawing partial birth abortion. But Congress did not stand pat. In 2003, Congress passed a federal ban on partial birth abortions and invited the Court to change its mind. The Court did, and now Gonzales v. Carhart is the law of the land and partial birth abortions are against the law.

On the latter point I say we should try to save as many babies as we can when we can, not wait until the elusive day when they can all be saved.