The Ohio Senate will not vote on two hotly contested pieces of anti-choice legislation — one that would have imposed the strictest abortion in the nation, and one that sought to strip funding from the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics — during their lame duck session this year, the current Speaker of the Senate announced on Tuesday.
State Speaker Tom Niehaus (R-OH) confirmed to the Columbus Dispatch that the Senate’s agenda for the rest of the year will not include those two bills, after he suggested earlier this month that state lawmakers might attempt to push them through:
The New Richmond Republican said publicly what has been hinted privately for more than a week – that despite support from House Republicans, and some in his own caucus, the Senate’s agenda in the lame-duck legislative session will not include these controversial bills.
“We have been the most pro-life legislature in my memory,” Niehaus told reporters today. “I want to continue my focus on jobs and the economy.”
Niehaus cited some concerns that two bills may be too overreaching, even for the most stringent abortion opponents in his legislature. The proposed “heartbeat” bill that sought to outlaw all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which can occur as early as six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant — is so extreme that it has divided the anti-choice community, and Niehaus said he wants to wait until the Ohio’s anti-choice groups are able to reach a consensus on it.
Niehaus even acknowledged that the move to deny $1.4 million in funding for Planned Parenthood clinics may be going too far. In a rare concession from a Republican official, Neihaus told the Columbus Dispatch that he believes the organization provides women with a number of health services that aren’t available elsewhere. “From my perspective, we have to look at the entirety of work done by Planned Parenthood,” he said.
The announcement is welcome news for women’s health advocates, who were gearing up for a fight even after this month’s election results confirmed that voters across the country are rejecting radical anti-choice agendas. But they aren’t convinced that GOP lawmakers are finished with the War on Women quite yet. As NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio director Kellie Copeland told the Associated Press, “We don’t believe for a second that this threat is over — perhaps delayed, but not over.”