Ohio's Anti-Abortion "Heartbeat Bill" Fails, Because Even Anti-Abortion Activists Hated It
Over the last few years, Ohio lawmakers have been trying to pass a fetal heartbeat bill, which could ban abortion as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. On Wednesday, they were unsuccessful once again: Ohio's fetal heartbeat bill failed to pass the state's House of Representatives by a 46 to 39 vote. The bill's defeat comes after weeks of protests and mounting pressure from both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups, the latter of which surprisingly opposed the harsh measure.
The proposed legislation would have outlawed abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which medical experts say could be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The bill did not make exceptions for rape or incest, but did allow an exemptions for a woman's life or health. If passed, the heartbeat bill would be the most extreme abortion bill in the nation.
However, it would have also been blatantly unconstitutional and most likely would have lost a legal challenge, according to both abortion rights and anti-abortion activists. Ohio Right to Life, the state's largest and most prominent anti-abortion group, opposed the fetal heartbeat bill because of the almost-certain legal challenges.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio called the bill "unjust," "simply unconscionable," and "bad medicine." The organization held a rally outside the Ohio Statehouse last week, inviting doctors, faith leaders, and Planned Parenthood volunteers to speak out against the bill.
Samantha Williams, a volunteer and mother of six who shared her abortion story at the rally, said she had no idea she was pregnant at six weeks:
Abortion needs to remain a safe and legal option for women. A six-week abortion ban takes that away. I did not know I was pregnant as early as six weeks. Most women aren’t aware they’re pregnant that early. Why would a politician want to take away a woman’s options?
Dr. Elise DeVore Berlan, an Ohio-based pediatric physician, said at the rally that the fetal heartbeat bill would "push all of that medical and scientific knowledge aside." She added that a bill effectively serving as a six-week abortion ban would impede on the right of doctors to "counsel their pregnant patients with all of their options," which includes abortion care.
Although these bans are extreme and outright unconstitutional, that hasn't stopped anti-abortion states legislators from introducing them, with the hope of directly challenging Roe v. Wade. But none of these heartbeat bills have been well-received, and a court ruling earlier this year shows how easy the ban crumbles when its constitutionality is questioned. In April, a federal judge overturned North Dakota's fetal heartbeat law, calling it "invalid and unconstitutional" — a direct violation of a woman's right to choose.
Lawmakers in Alabama and Michigan have also introduced fetal heartbeat bills in 2014, but the measures have yet to pass the respective state legislatures.
Images: Getty Images, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio