Ohio Congress passes Heartbeat Bill

By Dylan Carlson Sirvent, ’19

On Dec. 6, 2016, House Bill 69, better known as The Heartbeat Bill, was passed by the Ohio Congress, introduced by its primary sponsors State Representatives Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) and Ron Hood (R-Ashville). HB 69 was incorporated into HB 493—legislation which revised child abuse and neglect reporting law. Both bills passed the Ohio State House of Representatives in the 131st General Assembly, with the Heartbeat Bill passing by 56-39, mostly along party lines.

The Bill outlined new regulations that would would prohibit the abortion of a fetus after a heartbeat was detected—at around six weeks, before many women realize they are pregnant. If an abortion was carried out after a fetal heartbeat was detected, it would be considered a fifth-degree felony. The legislation challenged Supreme Court rulings regarding abortions that found that women have a constitutional right to abort until the point of viability, normally reached around 24 weeks from conception.

On Dec. 13, 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the bill, saying in the official veto report, “Certain provisions that were amended into Am. Sub. HB 493, however, are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion.”

However, Governor Kasich did pass a ban proposed in Senate Bill 127 which prohibited abortions after a 20-week gestation period (except in cases to save the mother’s life), deemed as the point during fetal growth in which a fetus can experience pain. Gov. Kasich said in his official veto report that the new law would forbid the termination of “a human pregnancy of a pain-capable unborn child.”

Pro-choice activists were divided on how to celebrate, even though the Heartbeat Bill was vetoed, the 20-week abortion plan was a shorter time period than existing legislation which allowed up to 24 weeks before forbidding an abortion. Also, SB 127 clamped down on late-term abortions, prohibiting the procedure even in cases of rape or incest.

Furthermore, since Gov. Kasich’s appointment, the number of abortion clinics has decreased from 16 to 9.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said Kasich’s veto of the Heartbeat Bill was not a victory, but a distraction.

“John Kasich is treating women’s health care like a game. He thinks that by vetoing one abortion ban Ohioans will not notice that he has signed another.”