FINDLAY — Seeking to restore momentum for the stalled anti-abortion measure S.B. 297 — the so-called Heartbeat Bill — supporters stepped up their campaign to defeat state Sen. Cliff Hite (R., Findlay), an anti-abortion senator who Heartbeat supporters say isn't anti-abortion enough.
Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, a nonprofit organization advocating the Heartbeat Bill, led pickets and then tried to ask questions of Mr. Hite at a meet-the-candidates luncheon at American Legion Post 3 in Findlay.
Ms. Porter claimed Mr. Hite is insincere in his claims to support the legislation because he won't co-sponsor it in the Senate or pressure Senate President Keith Faber to bring it to a vote, and because of comments he made in the Bryan Times that the bill was “ineffective” and it was “the wrong time” for it.
She said she’s supporting Corey Shankleton, a church minister from the Williams County hamlet of Kunkle, Ohio, because he's been a stronger backer of the Heartbeat Bill, which she believes would result more quickly in ending abortions in Ohio than the piecemeal approach she says Ohio Right to Life has taken.
Mr. Hite, Mr. Shankleton, and Milo Schaffner of Van Wert are competing in the May 6 primary election. No Democrats filed. District 1 includes Williams, Defiance, Paulding, Hardin, Putnam, Van Wert, Henry, and Hancock counties, and parts of Logan, Fulton, and Auglaize counties.
The Heartbeat Bill would prohibit the abortion of any fetus for which a doctor can detect a heartbeat.
“It’s heartbreaking. He told me how pro-Heartbeat he was. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out he was working against it all this time,” Ms. Porter said. “If he coached football like he serves in the Senate, all the players would be on the bench.”
Wearing a pin that said, “Hite Let Us Down,” Ms. Porter was accompanied by others at the luncheon sponsored by the Hancock County Republican Party.
She said disapprovingly that Mr. Hite expressed agreement with Common Core, national education standards that are attracting opposition from conservative and Tea Party groups.
Mr. Hite has held his Senate seat since 2011, when he was appointed to succeed state Sen. Steve Buehrer after the Delta Republican's appointment to Gov. John Kasich's administration.
The former state representative retained the seat in a 2012 special election.
Mr. Shankleton, 35, who was at the candidates’ forum, said Mr. Hite erroneously stated the Heartbeat Bill has a legal problem in that it does not provide for “severability,” under which the rest of it stands if one part is struck down in court.
“He’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He said [Senate GOP caucus] lawyers told him not to go forward with the House bill because it does not have severability. It has had severability since 2011,” Mr. Shankleton said.
Mr. Hite did not immediately return phone calls.
The Heartbeat Bill passed the House in 2011 and has not been acted on in the Senate.
Ohio Right to Life previously opposed the bill and now has no position on it. Organization President Mike Gonidakis said his group supports Mr. Hite.
“We unanimously endorsed Cliff Hite for his district. It was a very easy decision. Cliff has an impressive 100-percent pro-life record. For anyone to claim to challenge Cliff Hite on pro-life grounds is preposterous,” he said.