In Ohio, a new version of a heartbeat bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks after a pregnant person’s last menstrual period was filed on Wednesday.
Sponsored by state Reps. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) and Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon), HB 248 would “generally prohibit an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable heartbeat and to create the Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion and Support,” seeking to make most abortions illegal if performed once a fetal or embryonic heartbeat can be detected.
The move comes a few days after a press conference in favor of the measure that featured most of the Duggar family, of 19 Kids and Counting fame.
Unlike the 2011 Ohio heartbeat bill, which failed to get a vote in the state senate, this version of the bill states:
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The director of health may adopt rules pursuant to section 111.15 of the Revised Code specifying the appropriate methods of performing an examination for the purpose of determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat of an unborn individual based on standard medical practice. The rules shall require only that an examination shall be performed externally.
This language implies that under the bill patients would be given an abdominal—as opposed to a transvaginal—examination in an effort to detect a heartbeat. This technicality could add weeks to how long a pregnant person has to obtain an abortion, since an abdominal ultrasound or doppler is less likely to detect a heartbeat prior to 10 to 12 weeks. However, the repetition of “standard medical practice” language makes it unclear if that is the intent of the law, since standard medical practice for detecting a heartbeat early in a pregnancy is via a transvaginal ultrasound.
The type of ultrasound that would be required under the bill is just one of the contentious issues that is sure to receive heated debate if the bill gets a floor hearing. The bill contains no exception for people impregnated as a result of sexual assault. The bill states that if a heartbeat can be detected, an abortion can only be performed if the procedure is “intended to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Also different from the 2011 heartbeat bill is an amendment to create a “joint legislative committee on adoption promotion and support”:
The committee may review or study any matter that it considers relevant to the adoption process in this state, with priority given to the study or review of mechanisms intended to increase awareness of the process, increase its effectiveness, or both.
The proposed committee is the latest effort by anti-choice members of the Ohio legislature to focus more resources on “abortion alternatives” programs. Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a budget bill that, among numerous amendments, included one that redirected money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to crisis pregnancy centers.
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