Ohio’s Extremist Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Headed to House Floor

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Ohio’s Extremist Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban Headed to House Floor

Nina Liss-Schultz

HB 248, which represents at least the second time Ohio has tried to pass a heartbeat ban, was pushed hastily to a vote in the House Health and Aging Committee.

An Ohio legislative committee on Thursday passed a bill that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. HB 248 was approved by the the House Health and Aging Committee with an 11-6 vote, and will now move to the house floor.

So-called heartbeat bans, which restrict abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, are some of the most extreme anti-abortion policies in the country. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant and several months before a fetus is considered viable—the cut-off set by Roe v. Wade in protecting access to abortion. So heartbeat bans essentially make the vast majority of abortions illegal.

Legal precedent for a similar ban shows that Ohio’s far-reaching abortion regulation—pushed by the most radical elements of the state’s GOP—likely won’t pass constitutional muster.

HB 248, which represents at least the second time Ohio has tried to pass a heartbeat ban, was pushed hastily to a vote in the house committee. The bill was added at the very last minute to the committee’s Thursday calendar and was scheduled for a quick vote. Republican state leaders also altered the committee members to make the committee more friendly to the extremist bill, replacing moderate Republicans expected to vote against HB 248 with those in favor of the legislation.

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Ohio in 2011 became the first state to try and pass a fetal heartbeat ban when it introduced HB 125, but the bills have since gained popularity in state legislatures. Bills like HB 125 have been introduced in Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Even some anti-choice activists oppose heartbeat bans, which they consider extreme versions of the more popular 20-week abortion bans. The only state to successfully enact such a ban is North Dakota, but a federal judge in April permanently struck down the law, calling it “invalid and unconstitutional.”