One of the most divisive and talked-about bills in Ohio’s history is officially on its way to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk and is expected to be signed into law at any moment.
After months of debate and numerous committee hearings, the heartbeat bill passed the Ohio House Wednesday afternoon in a 56-40 vote along party lines. It then went back to the Senate where changes made to the bill in the House were approved in an 18-13 vote.
According to Cleveland-based reporter Laura Hancock, four Republicans voted against the bill in the Senate, since it doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest.
— Laura Hancock (@laurahancock) April 10, 2019
Protesters and activists from both sides of the debate gathered in the House chambers during Wednesday’s vote. While representatives were casting their votes, pro-abortion activists held a banner over the upper railings of the chambers, which read: “This is not a house of worship.”
“Not the church, not the state, patients must decide their fate,” protesters chanted at one point.
Protests erupt as Reps. vote on Heartbeat Bill. Bill passes 56-40. Now goes back to Senate. pic.twitter.com/tooVf9dsDS
— Maggie Prosser (@ProsserMaggie) April 10, 2019
Prior to the vote, protesters were gathered outside the chambers, where some pro-life activists were seen kneeling in prayer while their opponents chanted.
— Andrew Tobias (@AndrewJTobias) April 10, 2019
One reporter on the scene described the protests as “very loud” and noted that State Highway Patrol troopers were on the ground to keep the protesters separated.
Can confirm: The protesters outside the House chambers, where state lawmakers are poised to pass the “Heartbeat Bill,” are very loud. State Highway Patrol troopers generally are keeping them separated. pic.twitter.com/YnuSzAwTZm
— Andrew Tobias (@AndrewJTobias) April 10, 2019
Reaction to its passage
Democratic lawmakers were quick to label the bill, which would ban abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, as a “near-total abortion ban” and the “most extreme abortion ban in the country.”
“This extreme abortion ban threatens the health and economic security of women and families, and further damages Ohio’s promise of opportunity for all. The Legislature has made it perfectly clear that women like me are second-class citizens,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) said in a statement. “We are focused on all the wrong things. As lawmakers, we should be focused on letting Ohio lead in areas like education and job creation—not in restricting the fundamental rights and liberties of taxpayers.”
Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), the lead Democrat on the House Health Committee, called the bill an “unvetted, rushed legislation” that will “have serious unintended consequences down the road for Ohio women, children and families.”
Democrats in the Senate similarly called the bill “unconstitutional” and the “nation’s most extreme anti-choice bill.”
“Instead of passing bills that help Ohio’s children and advance the quality of life for all people, Republicans are wasting our time and taxpayer resources with this blatantly unconstitutional abortion bill,” said State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) in a press release. “Not only does it defy science, it is inhumane. By not allowing exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother, Republicans are guaranteeing the deaths of women in this state. This is what history has shown us will occur, and we would be foolish to ignore it.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), who is now running for president, weighed in on the debate, calling the bill “one of the most restrictive reproductive rights bills in the country” and a “threat to the health and safety of Ohio women and their families.”
“A doctor’s office is for a woman, her family, and her physician—not the government. Full stop,” he added.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the bill will “virtually outlaw abortion and drag us into a dystopian nightmare where people are forced to continue pregnancies regardless of the harm that may come to them or their family.”
“We will stand in support of Ohio’s abortion providers as they challenge this attack on the public health in court. We will stand with Ohioans as they seek the abortion care they need,” she added.
Pro-life activists, however, hailed the bill as a “victory” and a direct attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Ohio Right to Life commends our countless pro-life leaders in the Ohio House and Senate who have made the heartbeat bill a priority,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a press release. “The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade. While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies. We look forward to standing beside our friend and pro-life Governor, Mike DeWine when he signs the heartbeat bill.”
Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values, said that “thanks to the compassion and commitment of the Ohio General Assembly, the Buckeye State will end this atrocity.”
“Ohio’s made history!” he exclaimed, saying the bill’s passage was “truly a team effort.”
“We cannot end the atrocities of abortion alone. We need each other to ultimately see the dignity of all life protected,” he continued.
Indeed, the heartbeat bill would not have been possible without Faith to Action’s Janet Porter, who wrote the first draft of the bill and began the effort in 2010.
“All the credit—all the glory—goes to Jesus Christ, the author and giver of life,” Porter said in a brief statement.
This is a developing story. Check back at The Ohio Star for more updates.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine.