The Ohio House has voted on what activists on both sides of the abortion debate call the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. As Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports, the vote came after two hours of expected and passionate debate.
With three bills related to abortion in the House, and two abortion-related measures in the state budget, Mike Gonidakis with Ohio Right to Life is busy.
GONIDAKIS: “We like to think this is ‘Pro-life Week’. Some call it budget week. We think it’s ‘Pro-life Week’.”
But also very active this week is Gary Dougherty with Planned Parenthood Ohio.
DOUGHERTY: “Today is a sad day for women. Where is the mandate on this attack on women and their health care options?”
And pro-choice activists say the bill that angers them the most is the so-called “Heartbeat Bill”, which would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could happen even before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Supporters say the Heartbeat Bill will prevent thousands of abortions each year. But Democrat Connie Pillich of Cincinnati railed against its mostly-conservative backers, saying it gives the state unprecedented power, which should be something they would fight against.
PILLICH: “That’s what I don’t understand. How did it happen that I am not to be trusted? How did you get the right to tell me what to do – how did that happen? How do any of you have any authority to tell my daughter what she should do?”
And Democrat Clayton Luckie of Dayton brought funding into the debate.
LUCKIE: “We take away funds from children’s hospitals. We take away from community health centers all across the state. Let’s stop being Jesus – let’s pass bills that affect people in the right way and let them have their choice.”
Opponents also added that the bill doesn’t create jobs, which they say was the major campaign issue in 2010. But Republican Danny Bubp of southwest Ohio said supporters say the Heartbeat Bill follow the mandate that they got in that GOP tsunami last fall.
BUBP: “We have to reflect on what Ohio did on November 2 of last year. And that is they voted. And they voted for change.”
And Republican Margaret Conditt of Cincinnati says she likes the bill because it punishes a doctor who performs abortions, rather than a woman who has one.
CONDITT: “She’s punished enough by living with her decision. Many times the woman did not make that decision of her own free will. She was forced to make that decision either by another person or by her own circumstances. So she is not fully culpable for the sin.”
The specifics of the law do concern some opponents, who note there’s no exception for victims of rape or incest, or for women who have physical or mental health issues. But the overall question continues to be whether the law is constitutional. Democrat Dan Ramos of Lorain says he asked that over and over during hearings on the Heartbeat Bill, and heard from activists on both sides that it isn’t.
RAMOS: “The fact is that we as legislators have a mechanism for changing the United States constitution if we so see fit. But passing a clearly unconstitutional law is not it.”
But Republican Matt Huffman of Lima said this law falls in line with the constitution’s protection of rights of all citizens.
HUFFMAN: “That’s what the government is for – not to infringe, but to protect the rights of the citizens. I believe an unborn child is a person and is entitled to rights under the constitution.
Though it passed out of committee almost three months ago, the Heartbeat Bill had 49 sponsors in the House, so there was little doubt that it would pass. It was approved 54-43, and now goes on to the Senate. If it’s signed into law, most abortions would be illegal in Ohio. But the House did go on to approve a bill prohibiting elective abortions within the pool of plans that are required to be set up by each state with the new federal health care law. And it passed another measure banning abortions after viability – defined in the Senate’s version of the bill as anytime past 24 weeks into a pregnancy.