COLUMBUS — Backers of a ban on abortions at the first detectable heartbeat are rolling out billboards and TV and radio ads in Ohio's major cities next week to spur state senators to take up the proposal.
Should the so-called "heartbeat bill" become law, it would impose the nation's most stringent abortion limit.
The measure passed the Ohio House in June, but has stalled in the state Senate where it has yet to be assigned to a legislative committee.
Members of Ohio ProLife Action, a new statewide anti-abortion group that's pushing the bill, have been meeting with state senators to try to address their concerns and get the measure moving through the Senate.
But with no commitment from Senate leaders on when they plan to act, the anti-abortion group's president says the organization will begin airing 30-second television ads next week in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati markets. The ads feature state senators' phone numbers in an effort to persuade viewers to call the lawmakers. The spot has already aired in Dayton.
"While we appreciate and agree with the Senate's desire to make this the best bill possible, we continue to urge them to send the bill to committee where the process can be completed and sent to the floor for a vote," Linda Theis, president of Ohio ProLife Action, said in a news release Thursday.
Ohio ProLife Action is spending "thousands of dollars" to air the ads, Theis said in an interview Friday.
The heartbeat legislation has divided Ohio's anti-abortion community. Ohio Right to Life has taken issue with the proposal, fearing a legal challenge could jeopardize other abortion limits in Ohio and expand access to legal abortions.
Senate President Tom Niehaus told reporters this week it was too soon to say whether his chamber would vote before the end of the year on the bill.
Niehaus, a New Richmond Republican, has convened a group of lawmakers to research the measure and vet any legal issues. He's asked the group to report back this month.
Theis said her organization had "a good negotiating meeting" with senators on Thursday. One suggestion from the senators was to include specific equipment doctors would use to detect the fetus' heartbeat, she said.
However, she noted the bill's supporters believe specifying the kinds of equipment might cause future problems with the bill should technology change.
Theis said the organization was looking at the ideas, but added, "We're not changing anything major."
She said her group respects the Senate's thorough review, but is eager to discuss the bill in front of a committee.
The organization plans to put up billboards soon in various locations around Cincinnati. It's also launching a statewide radio campaign beginning with 30- second ads in the Columbus, Delaware, Lancaster, Mansfield, Findlay, Defiance, Lima, Steubenville, and southeast Ohio regions. More than 500 churches have also agreed to distribute information about the legislation in their church bulletins.