Ohio House Republicans added substantial new provisions to their version of the “heartbeat bill” that have the potential to make one of the state’s most controversial pieces of legislation even more divisive.
While the Senate already passed its version of the bill last month, it is still making its way through the committee process in the House. During its third hearing for the bill Tuesday, the Ohio House Health Committee adopted several changes to the text of the bill.
One of those changes would allow the Ohio State Medical Board to fine up to $10,000 for “each separate violation or failure of a person to comply” with the provisions of the bill. Money collected through these fines would then be deposited into a new “Foster Care and Adoption Initiatives Fund,” which would be established upon the bill’s passage.
Another change would require the Ohio Director of Health to adopt rules “specifying the appropriate methods of performing an examination for the purpose of determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat of an unborn human individual.” Along those lines, the new changes prevent the exclusion of transvaginal ultrasounds “as a method of detection.”
Transvaginal ultrasounds, as opposed to abdominal ultrasounds, can detect a fetal heartbeat with greater accuracy and earlier in the pregnancy.
If approved by the full House, the changes would then need to be referred back to the Senate for consideration.
Since the bill’s first hearing on March 19, the House Health Committee has heard nearly 200 witness testimonies for and against the bill. On Tuesday, Cincinnati Right to Life Executive Director Meg Wittman testified in favor of the legislation, calling it “the strongest legal protection of defenseless unborn life our state has considered.”
“This committee will likely be told by opponents that this bill is ‘unconstitutional,’” she said. “However, this obscures a simple fact—the U.S. Supreme Court has been moving in a direction with cases post-Roe that call for optimism and indicate opportunity for bold, decisive protections to be put in place by state legislatures.”
As Wittman predicted, ACLU of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels called the measure “blatantly unconstitutional” during his testimony.
“Again and again, federal and state courts issue injunctions against these radical bills and strike them all down,” he said. “Finally, please realize passing SB 23 will not prevent a single abortion in Ohio. If a court were to inexplicably uphold SB 23 after Ohio is sued, women will still seek out and receive abortions in unsafe ways and in unsafe environments or attempt to perform abortions themselves.”
The full Ohio House has yet to vote on the bill, but Gov. Mike DeWine has said he would “absolutely” sign it into law if it reaches his desk.
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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 [email protected].
Photo “Meg Wittman” by Meg Wittman. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse House Floor” by Joshua Rothaas. CC BY-SA 2.0.