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"Heartbeat Bill" Back for a Third Time in Ohio

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said he would sign a bill that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Prawny/Pixabay)
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said he would sign a bill that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. (Prawny/Pixabay)
February 27, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A controversial "heartbeat bill" is once again making its way through the Ohio Statehouse, and dozens of people are weighing in.

The legislation introduced in both the House (HB 68) and Senate (SB 23) would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Stephanie Craddock Sherwood, executive director of the group Women Have Options-Ohio, which funds abortion care in the state, was among those who spoke during opponent testimony Tuesday in a Senate committee.

According to Sherwood, medical complications, drug addiction, job loss, incest and sexual abuse are among the reasons a woman seeks to end a pregnancy.

"Plain and simple, abortion bans are dangerous, out of touch with the real-lived experiences of these folks," she said. "And this bill won't change the need for abortion access; it only works to set up roadblocks to those who need it most."

Supporters argue the legislation would protect the most vulnerable by establishing a clear standard to determine when life deserves protection. While former Gov. John Kasich vetoed similar bills in the past two years, Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated he would sign it if approved by lawmakers.

Ohio Right to Life did not support past heartbeat bills, but is changing its stance now that there are two new U.S. Supreme Court Justices who've stated anti-abortion views. During proponent testimony last week, Jessica Warner, director of legislative affairs for Ohio Right to Life,
said the bill is the next step in the organization's mission to end abortion in the state.

"In most medical situations, a heartbeat indicates the presence of life," Warner said. "There is no reason that, in the situation of whether a fetus deserves the right to life or not, that a heartbeat should not be recognized as a presence of life."

As a pediatrician in Columbus, Dr. Elise DeVore Berlan works on teen contraception and pregnancy prevention programs. She testified that pregnancies often aren't confirmed until after six weeks. She pointed out that while older, more financially secure women might be able to find ways to get around a ban, younger girls could take matters into their own hands.

"Many girls and women will still find ways to end their pregnancy – for example, by self-induced trauma and unregulated medications – and they face much higher health risks in those circumstances compared to legal abortion," Berlan said.

Arkansas, Iowa and North Dakota passed similar bans that have since been struck down in court.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest, and funded in part by The George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH