COLUMBUS — The Ohio House today for the second time voted across party lines for a bill that would all but ban an abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable, as early as six weeks.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) became so angry during the debate that she stood up and revealed publicly for the first time that she was a victim of rape, became pregnant as a result, and had an abortion. This occurred years ago while she was in the military, and she said later there were members of her own family that didn’t know.
“You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice…,” she told her colleagues. “What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long.
“I dare any one of you to judge me, because there’s only one judge I’m going to face…,” she said. “I dare you to walk in my shoes…This debate is purely political. I understand your story, but you don’t understand mine. I’m grateful for that freedom. It is a personal decision, and how dare government get into my business.”
House Bill 69 would provide exceptions to the abortion ban when the mother’s life is in danger or when she is considered to be at serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment. The bill’s supporters have resisted attempts to amend the bill to make exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
The chamber voted 55-40 with partisan defections on both sides.
“I’ll tell you what we know for certain,” said Rep. Christina Hagan (R., Alliance), one of the chief sponsors of the bill. “An unborn child has a beating heart. Should we allow that heart to be stopped? This legislation would honor life at the first detectable heartbeat by providing appropriate protection of the law to that unborn and unique individual.”
This marked the third Ohio House vote on the bill and the second time it has passed.
But there’s no indication that the Senate, which refused to take up the bill two years ago, has changed its stance.
That’s especially true now that a competing measure has been introduced with Ohio Right to Life’s backing that also pushes the constitutional envelope on Roe v. Wade but not to the extent that the Heartbeat Bill would. That bill, which has not seen a vote, would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, the point at which anti-abortion activists argue a fetus would feel pain.
The backers of the Heartbeat Bill make no secret that they fully expect federal courts to strike it down, ultimately giving the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to reconsider its landmark 1973 decision upholding abortion as a privacy right. The high court has since generally upheld that states cannot impose limits on abortions until after a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, generally at about the 24-week mark.
Ohio Right to Life’s refusal to sign on to the bill has given political cover to a number of pro-life lawmakers who otherwise support anti-abortion measures. Right to Life has voiced fear that the Supreme Court’s makeup has not changed enough and that another ruling now that upholds Roe could undermine other gains the movement has made in Ohio in recent years under Gov. John Kasich.
The bill would require a doctor to test for a fetal heartbeat and would subject that doctor to a felony charge if he proceeds with an abortion once one is detected.