Future of Ohio Heartbeat Bill in Doubt as Senate Postpones Hearings

After months of campaigning through prayer rallies and television, radio and even aerial advertisements, proponents of Ohio’s extreme anti-choice Heartbeat Bill finally inched the process forward this week as the Senate president Tom Niehaus and Health committee chairman Sen. Scott Oelslager held committee hearings on the legislation. But now, the bill’s future is in doubt after Niehaus abruptly postponed hearings on the bill, first proposed by Janet Porter and State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, over intense infighting among anti-choice activists and last-minute changes to the bill:

Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, pulled the plug today on House Bill 125, the so-called heartbeat bill that would have been the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law. He suspended hearings on the controversial legislation until 2012.

Oelslager had planned to only take testimony on HB 125 and not make amendments to it. That indicated the bill would not get passed this year as Porter said she was promised by Niehaus.

Niehaus said he doesn’t remember making that promise only that there would be hearings before Christmas. He again blasted Porter and bill supporters for suggesting changes Tuesday after saying the Senate should pass HB 125 just as it was passed by the House in June. He discounted Porter’s contention that the changes were technical in nature.

“After five months of berating us and criticizing us, with no explanation they hand me a four-page document with 20 plus changes,” he said. “Where were they? It underscores how complicated and contentious this legislation is.”

The Dayton Daily News reports that the National Right to Life Committee’s James Bopp testified against the extreme legislation, which is also opposed by the Ohio Right to Life Society:

The bill has divided abortion opponents, and James Bopp Jr., general counsel to the National Right to Life Committee, testified against it Tuesday. He said in his prepared testimony that he believes the ban on abortions after a heartbeat would be unconstitutional under current court rulings and would not stand a U.S. Supreme Court challenge.

He said that the “informed consent” requirement in the bill — that a woman be informed that a heartbeat was detected — would be useful legislation that would be constitutional.

Porter, however, rejected Bopp’s argument and said taking the ban out of the bill would “take the heart out of the Heartbeat” bill. Ohio Right to Life does not support the bill for reasons similar to those outlined by Bopp, but Porter and supporters say now is the time to mount a challenge.

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