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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2012

Bad bills KO’d

Two extremist attacks on abortion rights and family planning came to a halt in Columbus this week, thanks to a level-headed Republican legislative leader.

Outgoing Senate President Tom Niehaus said he will not schedule votes on the “heartbeat bill” and a separate measure that would gut state aid to Planned Parenthood before the legislature’s lame-duck session ends this month. It’s the right call.

The heartbeat bill would ban virtually all abortions from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can occur within six weeks after conception and, in many instances, before women know they are pregnant.

The measure allows few exceptions for rape or incest. Doctors who performed unauthorized abortions would risk felony prosecutions and loss of their medical licenses.

Proponents say the bill would reduce the number of abortions performed in Ohio by 90 percent. But the bill caused many opponents, including Mr. Niehaus, to conclude it is unconstitutional.

Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, warned that the measure would jeopardize other abortion limits in Ohio and potentially expand access to legal abortions. But Ohio House members approved the bill last year, figuring an inevitable court challenge would give the U.S. Supreme Court an excuse to overturn its landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, which declared a limited constitutional right to abortion.

Senator Niehaus said he was dismayed by the bullying tactics of the heartbeat bill’s supporters, who he claimed demanded a vote on the bill without a Senate hearing. He criticized “the divisive tactics of a few radicals.”

Mr. Niehaus also said this week he will not take up a bill that would eliminate as much as $1.7 million in federal aid to Planned Parenthood’s that is administered by the state. Planned Parenthood’s 32 Ohio clinics would have gone to the end of the line for such funding, behind other health care agencies.

Planned Parenthood programs in Ohio go well beyond abortion counseling. They include cancer and HIV screenings, family planning, and prenatal care — often for women who have no other access to medical services.

Mr. Niehaus is leaving the Republican-controlled Senate at the end of the year because of term limits. Both of the measures he rejected are likely to be introduced again when a new General Assembly takes office next month. Still, the GOP leader did the right thing on his way out.



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