Heartbeat Bill, Planned Parenthood bill not to reach Ohio Senate floor

A large balloon in support of the Heartbeat Bill is seen in front of the Ohio statehouse.
A large balloon in support of the Heartbeat Bill is seen in front of the Ohio statehouse.

COLUMBUS—Proposed bills that would cut if not eliminate family planning funding for Planned Parenthood and all but outlaw abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat is detected ran into a brick wall in the state Senate Tuesday.

That wall, Senate President Tom Niehaus (R., New Richmond), said he does not intend to bring either controversial measure to the floor of the chamber during lame-duck session. That would mean the bills would die with the close of the two-year session in mid-December and would have to start the legislative process over next year.

“I think you have to look at the entirety of the work that’s done by Planned Parenthood, and I believe they offer much-needed services that are not available other places,” Mr. Niehaus said. “I chose not to take the bill up in lame-duck.”

Two weeks ago, a Republican-controlled House committee voted along party lines to send House Bill 298 to the full House. House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) said Tuesday the GOP caucus had yet to decide whether to bring the bill to a vote, and he questioned whether to go forward with a House vote knowing the Senate would not take it up.

The bill would have placed Planned Parenthood’s 32 Ohio clinics last in line behind state, county, and local government entities; federally qualified health centers; Community Action Agencies; hospitals; and private practices that offer comprehensive primary and preventative health care in addition to family planning services.

Mr. Niehaus also killed the hopes of some pro-life groups that the so-called Heartbeat Bill, House Bill 125, passed by the House nearly a year ago could yet be dusted off and brought to a Senate vote yet this session.

“If you look at past experience, this is the most pro-life Senate that we’ve had in the General Assembly,” Mr. Niehaus said. But he questioned the slow speed at which proponents of the bill have offered compromises, the latest of which was delivered to Mr. Niehaus’s office this morning.

“I still have constitutional concerns,” he said.

The bill would require a doctor to test for a fetal heartbeat and would prohibit an abortion if one is detected. A heartbeat could be detectable as early as six weeks after conception.