March 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Ohio Senate voted Wednesday to pass legislation that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, moving the long-awaited measure one step closer to finally becoming law.
Senate Bill 23 is virtually identical to legislation unsuccessfully pushed last year, which would ban aborting any baby with a detectable heartbeat, except in cases of a physical threat to the mother. Preborn babies’ heartbeats can be detected around six weeks into pregnancy; violating physicians would face up to a year in prison.
The bill passed the chamber on a 19-13 vote, Cleveland.com reports. It followed an 8-4 vote from the Senate Health Committee the day before, during which Democrat state Sen. Nickie Antonio tried and failed to add rape and incest exceptions.
During the floor debate the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Kristina Roegner, criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s “viability” standard for abortion’s permissibility as a “moving target” subject to change based on medical advancements or the healthcare available to a particular woman, rather than any innate characteristics of the preborn child.
“We need a new standard,” she argued. “The heartbeat bill provides a sensible solution.”
The vote fell mostly along party lines, though GOP state Sens. John Eklund Matt Dolan, Nathan Manning, and Stephanie Kunze joined Democrats in opposing it. Eklund declared he couldn’t support it without rape or incest exceptions, because while in “every case” of abortion “the victim is innocent,” rape and incest leaves two victims and a “dilemma” he was “not altogether sure the legislature should be making for that mother.”
“How a human is conceived doesn’t make it any more or less human,” Roegner argued in response to calls for rape or incest exceptions.
Last December, the legislature came one vote short of overriding a veto by former Gov. John Kasich, who claimed the heartbeat bill was “contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion” and therefore wouldn’t be worth the cost of a drawn-out legal battle. Many pro-lifers note that nearly every pro-life law, no matter how modest, results in a legal battle.
The outgoing Kasich, a moderate Republican with a history of conflicting actions and statements on abortion, greatly angered Ohio pro-lifers at the time. But pro-lifers were emboldened by the election of the more conservative GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, who endorsed the heartbeat bill on the campaign trail and told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in January he will “absolutely” sign the law if it reaches his desk.
The Ohio House is all but certain to send the bill to DeWine’s desk. It passed overwhelmingly in the previous session, and the House currently has 60 Republicans to 38 Democrats.
Numerous states have introduced or enacted heartbeat bills over the past several months. They ban abortion much earlier than the “viability” standard set by Roe v. Wade, which some cite to claim the bills would waste time and money on a doomed legal battle. Their proponents, however, argue that their purpose is to force a Supreme Court review that could finally overturn the 1973 ruling, hope fueled by the speculation that President Donald Trump’s nominees to the high court are on their side.
“I think if you shy away from things just because there might be litigation we would not have seen the re-prioritization of the funds that we did a number of years ago that the 6th Circuit upheld yesterday,” Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said, referring to the state’s victory Tuesday in a lawsuit sought by Planned Parenthood.
Also on Wednesday, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling on Congress to pass federal legislation that would require abortionists to get newborns to hospitals if born alive after failed abortions.