Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly joined their counterparts in the Senate on Tuesday in approving a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. It will become law in the next 10 days if Republican Gov. John Kasich doesn't veto it.
The bill would make it a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison, for a physician to perform an abortion without checking for a fetal heartbeat or performing the procedure after it can be detected according to The Columbus Dispatch. The doctor also could face a civil lawsuit from the mother and disciplinary action.
Lawmakers told The Columbus Dispatch that while previous attempts to pass the bill had failed due to concerns that the law would be ruled unconstitutional in federal court, the dynamic is now different with President-elect Donald Trump just weeks away from taking his place in the White House.
"A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward," Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, told the Dispatch when asked why the measure was put forward. "I think it has a better chance than it did before."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Republican lawmakers inserted the anti-abortion "heartbeat bill" language at the last minute into a bill revising state child abuse and neglect laws. The child abuse bill according to State House News had widespread support among Republicans and Democrats. The decision to revise it reportedly shocked and angered Democrats.
"It bastardizes the child abuse and neglect bill because it is taking away the safety and security of children," Democratic Senator Charleta Tavares said.
The bill, which was passed 56 to 39 in the House, is not expected to receive any additional hearings because it had previously cleared the House.
Sen. Kris Jordan, an Ostrander Republican, offered the amendment to the bill that updated state child abuse reporting laws.
"We in this chamber discuss the opportunities for children all in the context of education, medication and infant mortality," Jordan said on the Senate floor according to the Dealer. "But through our inaction we ensure that some children won't have the most important opportunity of all — the opportunity to live."
A fetal heartbeat can usually be detected about six weeks into a pregnancy.
The ACLU of Ohio warned that if Kasich signs the controversial bill into law they will fight it.
Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, told the Dealer that the lawmakers who passed the bill are wasting taxpayers' money.
"To slip it in at the last minute where there's no comment and no opportunity for people to really voice their opinion says we can't trust our legislators," said Harvey.
Janet Folger Porter of Faith2Action, a pro-life group, could not contain her excitement after the Heartbeat bill passed.
"I've been practicing this soundbite for about six years, so allow me to say it now, all glory goes to the God of the Impossible, praise to the name of Jesus," Porter told State House News.
Democrat Greta Johnson is concerned that the Heartbeat Bill doesn't provide exceptions for rape and incest. And she challenged lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of a 12-year-old incest victim.
"What would you say to her if you had to look at her and tell her no, that at 12 years old, she would be forced to carry a baby because she was impregnated by her brother," Johnson said according to the News.
Republican Representative Jim Buchy argued, on the other hand, that the bill would encourage personal responsibility.
"What we have here is really the need to give people the incentive to be more responsible so we reduce unwanted pregnancies and by the way, the vast majority of abortions are performed on women who were not raped," he said.
While several states have considered fetal heartbeat abortion bans, only two passed it, Arkansas and North Dakota, according to the Dispatch. The laws in both states were later found to be unconstitutional by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and declared illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals.