Today, the Ohio state legislature is likely going to meet and discuss moving a bill that will ban all abortion in the state from the point of a detectable heartbeat (as early as 18 days post conception) out of committee.
That bill, known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” will not pass committee.
I don’t often make predictions, especially when it comes to anti-choice legislation. Anti-abortion legislation often surprises me, and almost never in a good way. But I feel fairly confident that I will be right in this case, and here is why.
The “heartbeat bill” has actually been a fairly good bill in Ohio so far. Between the Valentine’s Day balloons and the “fetal testimony,” it’s made for some excellent theatrics and a lot of catchy media column inches. But it is bad legislation for the anti-abortion activists, and most of them know it. It will bring up an immidiate court challenge — in fact, the bill proponents are offering that as its selling point now, saying it is “offering the United States Supreme Court an engraved invitation to overturn Roe.”
The bill sponsors may want to open up that door, but anti-choice activists in Ohio, including the current Ohio Right to Life members, who have steadfastly refused to support the bill, do not.
Ohio has a multitude of other anti-choice bills that are passing through the legislature, from banning tax payer funding of abortions to a 20 week “fetal pain” ban. The “Heartbeat Bill” has done the state a great favor in being so extreme that the other four bills have passed through with almost no notice or argument. Like every other state’s 20 week “fetal pain” ban, with little exception for the health of the mother, (only “immediate and irreparable bodily harm,”) the 20 week ban in itself is enough to challenge Roe V. Wade.
The anti-abortion factions know this, and also know that this incremental change might have a shot both at redefining when abortions can be banned, by putting the “welfare” of a fetus at more value than the welfare of the mother at 20 weeks and creating a new litmus test for future challenges. After all, if a scientist is willing to go on record as stating a fetus could possibly feel pain at 20 weeks, even if the “evidence” is ludicrously tenuous, what’s to stop another in a year or two from saying now it’s 18 weeks? Or 15?
Pro-life activists have a great deal invested into the 20 week abortion ban. But the “Heartbeat Bill,” much like the recent South Dakota mandate to require a 72 hour wait and religious anti-abortion counseling, goes too far, and has too much potential to lose its legal battle, reinforcing Roe V. Wade.
South Dakota surprised me when they passed their bill anyway, but I find it hard to believe that I will be shocked again, and so soon. Anti-choice lawmakers in Ohio who know better will prevail, and the Heartbeat Bill will not make it out of committee.
photo from wikimedia commons