Opponents of a proposed abortion bill that would ban the procedure after just six week of pregnancy rallied on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, urging their lawmakers to stop pursuing unconstitutional abortion bans.
In the midst of Ohio’s lame duck session, Republicans in the state have been doing everything in their power to advance a six-week abortion ban — even restructuring a House committee to stack it with legislators who support the policy. Two weeks ago, the measure advanced out of that panel, and it could head to a full vote in the House as early as Thursday morning. It’s still unclear whether it has enough support to move further.
“Similar bills in Arkansas and North Dakota have already been struck down, so why are we wasting precious resources in Ohio to follow suit?” Rep. Heather Bishoff (D), one of the officials who hosted the event, said at the rally.
So-called “heartbeat bills” — which seek to criminalize abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected — are a clear violation of Roe v. Wade because they reduce the window during which women may have a legal abortion by about 17 weeks. A six-week ban would cut off access to the procedure before many women even realize that they need to make an appointment at a clinic.
“I did not know I was pregnant as early as six weeks. Most women aren’t aware they’re pregnant that early,” Samantha Williams, a Planned Parenthood volunteer and mother of six who spoke at the event on behalf of patients who may need abortion care, pointed out. “Why would a politician want to take away a woman’s options?”
There’s a lot of opposition to heartbeat bills, even from some unlikely suspects. While Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) hasn’t gone as far as to threaten to veto the legislation, he has expressed “concerns” about the measure’s constitutionality. Some of the anti-choice groups in the state have similar concerns, favoring a more incremental strategy to limit access to the procedure that won’t be as likely to be overturned in court. Republicans in the state have given up on previous attempts to pass a six-week ban for this reason.
Some religious leaders in the state are also speaking out against the proposed abortion restriction. “When we hear about this so-called ‘heartbeat bill,’ we hear a lot about morality, faith, and religion. But the legislators sponsoring and supporting this bill are pressing their personal faith perspective over others, and that’s wrong,” Rev. Delmarshae Sledge, a reverend within the United Church of Christ, said at Wednesday’s event. “Every woman must have the freedom to follow her personal religious and moral convictions concerning the completion or termination of a pregnancy.”
“Just like no one is being forced to have an abortion if she doesn’t want one, no one should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term if she doesn’t want to — our bodies, our decisions,” Williams added.
Ohio was the first state to propose a heartbeat ban in 2011. Since then, other states like Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi have introduced similar measures, but they haven’t been able to advance very far. Like “personhood” measures that seek to redefine life as beginning at conception, these type of radical abortion bans are too obviously controversial.