Across the country, Republicans and Democrats are wrangling over proposed changes to state abortion laws. On Tuesday, the Ohio House of Representatives voted on a measure that has the power to transform the state's -- and the nation's -- abortion dialogue. In a landmark move, the House voted 54 to 43 to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat becomes detectable to doctors.
The measure, known as the "Heartbeat Bill," has been touted by Republicans in the state, with the majority of them voting affirmatively for its passage. There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the proposal, as a heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks (by some accounts, it can be found even earlier). Also, the measure does not include exemptions for rape or incest, but it does include one for the health of the mother. Reuters has more about this intriguing legislative initiative:
If enacted, the law would be a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which upheld a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at 22-24 weeks.
Republican Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder said he knows this bill will face a court challenge.
"We're writing bills for courts," he said.
Batchelder's statement reinforces the notion that this measure may have a profound impact. It's an attempt to turn a corner in America's (and Ohio's) ongoing abortion debate. Back in February, I first reported on the Heartbeat Bill for Human Events, explaining this in detail:
Rather than protecting only those fetuses that lay at or above the seven-month threshold, the measure would protect human life in its earliest and most prenatal form. Interestingly, this bill uses the heartbeat as the litmus test for life. If proponents are able to pass this legislation and get their case in front of the Supreme Court (pending pro-choice groups challenging the law—which they will—and pending the high court agreeing to hear it—which may not be as likely), it would be a tremendous opportunity to reframe abortion’s legalities.
Below, watch a report from WCMH-TV:
As can be expected in debates surrounding abortion, Democrats were mostly opposed to the bill. According to The-Daily-Wooster.com, Bob Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, said:
"You should feel uncomfortable about this vote. This is about the rights of women to make a decision about what their life will be. ... Barefoot and pregnant, that's where they want you."
Others, like Rep. Nickie Antonio, said the Heartbeat Bill would endanger the lives of women:
"Women will die...This bill does not leave any room for the unknown, for the unimagined, for the heartbreaking things that happen through the course of a woman's pregnancy, through the course of a woman's life."
While the Democrats have shown their concern over the bill's impact on women, Republicans largely have pushed the measure as a result of more conservative beliefs and views on the beginnings of human life. Conservatives believe that the heartbeat is a sure sign of life and that, once it is detected, a child should be protected (though many believe that life begins at conception, the heartbeat is a measurable test that indicates "life").
The House also passed two other anti-abortion measures. One bans abortions after 20 weeks if a doctor determines that a baby can live outside of the womb, while the other excludes abortion from coverage under the state's insurance exchange (created under President Obama's health care law).
Now, the bill is headed to the state Senate and, if passed, to the governor to be signed. But, even if it clears these hurdles, years of court challenges are ahead. That in mind, Republicans appear ready and willing to enter these legal showdowns. Let the games begin.