Republican “Heartbeat Bill” challenges Roe v. Wade
On June 28, the Republican-controlled Ohio House brought the “Heartbeat Bill” (HB 125) to a vote on the House floor. Introduced by Rep. Lynn Watchmann (R-Napoleon) and with 48 co-sponsors, House members approved the bill with a 54-43 vote. The bill has not yet been taken up by the Ohio Senate.
The following language is the critical and most controversial part of the bill:
(E)(1) Except as provided in division (E)(2) or (3) of this section, no person shall knowingly perform an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected according to the requirements of division (C) of this section.
This bill, which could be the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can happen as early as six to seven weeks with some pregnancies. Doctors would be required to perform an ultrasound before performing an abortion. If a fetal heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound, the physician would be required to cancel the abortion. The penalty for violating the law could be loss of the right to practice medicine in Ohio. There are no penalties under this statute for the mother.
Supporters of the bill argue that this bill sets a new precedent modifying Roe v. Wade and is grounded in science. They expect a court challenge and have indicated that they’re ready to fight all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abortion rights groups say the move by Ohio Republicans is merely a political one that unfairly intervenes in the relationship doctors have with patients. Similar bills are also being considered by legislators in Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma, and well as being discussed in Kansas and Arizona.
The Ohio Heartbeat Bill clearly challenges the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade mandate, under which a woman has the right to abort a fetus until it is “viable.” Viable is defined as the point in gestation when the fetus or unborn child could “potentially live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” It’s only at the point of viability usually thought to be placed at around seven months or the beginning of the third trimester that states can restrict abortion. Clearly the Heartbeat Bill would contract the time for a legal abortion by several months.
This legislation would jeopardize the decades-old precedent set by the nation’s highest court and is likely to be immediately challenged in the courts if it were to become law.
Forum Question of the Week:
Should Ohio enact into law the current legislation known as the “Heartbeat Bill” and does the legislation violate Roe v. Wade?