The Republican-controlled Ohio House today passed House Bill (HB) 258, legislation that would prohibit an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as six weeks of pregnancy— long before most women even know they are pregnant.
The so-called “heartbeat bill” also makes no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, though Ohio’s public universities saw a 66-percent increase in reported rapes in 2016 and the Buckeye State experience a nine-percent increase in rape in 2016, according to FBI crime statistics. Ohio Republicans have also refused to end Ohio’s statute of limitations for victims of rape.
“A responsible government would reduce the need for abortion through increasing access to contraceptives, by fighting for more sex education and by working for commonsense measures that support working families,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “But these bans are not about increasing our state’s health and well-being, they are about advancing a political and ideological agenda by inserting government between women and their doctors.”
HB 258 would enact the most stringent abortion restrictions in the country and critics of the bill say its 6-week ban is unconstitutional.
“Making healthcare decisions for women and their families is not the role of government. But time and again, extremist policies restricting the rights of women to make their own healthcare decisions have been tried and ruled unconstitutional—all at taxpayer expense,” said House Democratic Whip Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Ohioans deserve better than this dangerous partisan agenda that harms women and families.
Similar restrictions in Arkansas, North Dakota and Iowa have already been struck down by federal courts. Defending the law in court would cost Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars, according to recent reports.
“Instead of spending time on a bill that is unhealthy and divisive, we should be considering bills that strengthen women and families by increasing access to healthcare and giving people the tools they need to have a better life,” said Assistant Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “We should leave healthcare decisions to women and their doctors, not extreme politicians in the Ohio Statehouse.”
The unprecedented “heartbeat bill” was added to the House Session calendar after Republican candidates swept Ohio’s top statewide offices during the midterm election.
Here is what House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the six-week abortion ban:
“It’s shameful that Ohio Republicans continue to try to dictate, control and direct the lives of women and their families,” said Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati). Women should be able to make their own healthcare decisions with their doctors, not politicians at the Ohio Statehouse.”
“This is nothing more than another GOP attack on women’s rights. A woman ought to have the bodily autonomy to make her own medical decisions and that is what abortion is: a medical decision. Emphasis on the word ‘decision.’ We are not forcing anyone who doesn’t want to have an abortion to have one and there is no violation of a moral compass,” said state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron).
“During my years working for the juvenile court, so many cases came up where teenagers were raped and impregnated by family members. More often than not the only options they were given were to reveal that they were pregnant and be kicked out of the home or terminate the pregnancy. That is who I think about when bills like HB 258 come about. The woman forced to decide between being homeless and pregnant with a family member’s child or to end the pregnancy to preserve what well-being she has. That’s the reality.”