Monday, December 12, 2011

Ohio Senate considers ban on abortions after heartbeat detection

(EWTN) A proposed Ohio ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected was the subject of a hearing in the Ohio Senate on Dec 7.

The proposal would ban abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks into pregnancy and has an exception for medical emergencies. Republican state Representative Lynn Wachtmann, the bill’s sponsor, told the Ohio Senate’s health committee that doctors and nurses closely monitor patients’ heartbeats, while emergency responders check for pulses.

“Why, then, should we ignore this critical indicator of life when it comes to the very young?” Rep. Watchmann asked on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The Republican-controlled House passed the measure by a 54-44 vote, but it has been stalled in the Senate. Backers say they need the support of 17 of the 33 state senators. Democratic state Senator Shirley Smith, a committee member, said the bill was “another attack on individual rights.” She compared it to the Republican-controlled legislature’s actions curbing collective bargaining rights, which Ohio voters recently rejected.

Bill supporters hope to provoke a legal challenge to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down state abortion laws. Jack Wilke, founder of Ohio Right to Life and the International Right to Life Federation, believes the bill could survive court challenges. “This has scared the wits out of pro-abortion organizers,” he said. “There is something almost magical about a heartbeat.”

Wilke has left Ohio Right to Life to join Ohio ProLife Action, which is backing the bill with radio and television ads and a banner flown over the Statehouse in Columbus.
Ohio Right to Life is neutral on the bill and questions whether the proposed law could survive a Supreme Court challenge. Its legislative affairs director Stephanie Krider told the Associated Press that the attempt is likely to “backfire.”

Her organization is supporting a nationwide effort to pass state bills that require women to see and hear the fetal heartbeat before agreeing to an abortion. Its reluctance to back the heartbeat measure to outlaw abortions has caused tensions with affiliates within the state. Ohio Right to Life’s largest chapter, in Cincinnati, has broken from the organization on the issue.

Wachtmann said he would not have gone forward with the bill if he felt confident the courts would strike it down. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has said it would fight the bill in court.
At one House hearing before it passed the bill, backers performed ultrasounds on two women early in their pregnancies so that legislators could see and hear the fetal heartbeats.

One of the babies whose heartbeat was broadcast in the House hearing was at the senate committee meeting.
“The House heard her heart,” commented Ducia Hamm, executive director of the Ashland Care Center, who oversaw the ultrasound in the House. “You get a chance to see her face and look into her eyes.”

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