Nov. 16 update: Following the initial tally, Democrat Rep. Glenn Holmes and Republican Rep. Marilyn Slaby cast their votes in favor of HB 258, securing a veto-proof majority. The report has been amended to reflect this information.
COLUMBUS, Ohio, November 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Ohio House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass legislation that would ban the vast majority of abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat.
House Bill 258 would ban committing an abortion on any preborn baby with a detectable heartbeat, except in cases of a “substantial and irreversible” physical threat to the mother. Any physician that violates the statute would face up to a year in prison. Preborn babies’ hearts finish forming around 7-8 weeks into pregnancy.
Heart beat bill clears Ohio House 58-35. Not a veto-proof margin. pic.twitter.com/lE9i4PRgUO
— Laura Bischoff (@lbischoff) November 15, 2018
HB 258 now goes to the overwhelmingly-Republican state Senate, where Senate President Larry Obhof says he has the votes to pass it, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. He hasn’t decided whether or not to hold a vote, however, because the bill is opposed by Ohio’s ostensibly “pro-life” Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich vetoed a heartbeat abortion ban in 2016, instead signing a late-term abortion ban and arguing the state would only lose an inevitable lawsuit defending the stronger law, gaining nothing but legal bills. Kasich has signaled his opposition again, but following the initial 58-35 vote tally, two more votes were cast to secure a veto-proof majority.
Faith2Action reports that at the last minute, Rep. Glenn Holmes became the second Democrat to cross party lines and support the pro-life measure (alongside Rep. Bill Patmon). Then attention turned to the unexpected absence of one of the heartbeat bill's cosponsors, GOP Rep. Marilyn Slaby. Faith2Action president Janet Porter called her husband, former Rep. Lynn Slaby.
“If we could get Marilyn to come back and vote before the House adjourned, it could still be counted. But there were only two bills left on the House Calendar, which meant we likely had less than an hour to get Marilyn back in time to cast the veto-proof vote,” Porter writes. “I spoke to Lynn and found out they were already two hours away en route to a critical meeting that he absolutely could not miss.”
“A four-hour round trip to get Marilyn back to to the House before they adjourned–it was impossible,” she noted. “Except, as Ohio's motto proclaims: “With God ALL THINGS are possible.'” Porter then details a series of events in which Slaby agreed to pull off the highway to be picked up, a friend of Porter's who lived near Slaby's position agreed to pick her up and bring her to Porter, and Speaker Ryan Smith agreed to recess rather than adjourn the session so Slaby's vote would count upon her return.
Now the bill's fate lies with the Senate. If it can’t muster enough votes to override another veto, pro-lifers will have another chance when Governor-elect Mike DeWine, previously the state’s attorney general, takes over in January. DeWine, who in his previous role defended the states’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, has already pledged to sign the bill.
“Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati has supported Ohio’s human heartbeat protection strategy since efforts began in 2011. In the years since, these efforts have educated many on the true nature of abortion’s toll on women, men, and their unborn children,” the group said Wednesday. “Establishing human heartbeat protections in Ohio is a historic opportunity for those committed to the cause of life.”
Currently, the strongest state-level protections for preborn babies are Iowa’s heartbeat abortion ban and Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, both of which are currently tied up in the courts. The Ohio measure is all-but-certain to face a similar legal challenge, but several pro-lifers, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa, argue that now is the time to press such a legal battle.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld Roe v. Wade since 1973 and has not yet upheld any pre-viability abortion bans, but heartbeat supporters argue that President Donald Trump’s nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace the pro-abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy has shifted the court’s ideological balance to the point where the pro-life case has a fighting chance.
It’s not known how Kavanaugh or Trump’s first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, will vote on Roe. Both alarmed some pro-lifers by expressing significant respect for Roe’s status as “precedent,” though other pro-lifers argued they were merely phrasing their answers diplomatically to navigate a narrowly-divided Senate confirmation process.