Two Ohio Republicans are teeing up a potential total abortion ban test case for the U.S. Supreme Court by seeking co-sponsors for a new “personhood” bill to make performing or having an abortion murder.
GOP Reps. Nino Vitale (Urbana) and Ron Hood (Ashville) are circulating the co-sponsor request for anti-choice legislation that gives legal rights to a fertilized egg and grants whistleblower protections to those who report abortion providers or patients to law enforcement, according to the document reviewed by Rewire.
“Up until this point, legislators have only regulated abortion,” the lawmakers wrote in the two-page memo dated September 8. “They have decided which classes of people have a right to life by creating exceptions to abortion, which is tantamount to creating exceptions to pre-meditated murder.”
Aggravated murder in Ohio is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty.
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A co-sponsor request is a way to gauge support and enlist backers before draft legislation is filed for introduction, a representative from Vitale’s office told Rewire. Co-sponsors have until 5 p.m. on October 6 to sign on in support of the proposed measure, which would be called the Ohio Life at Conception Act.
Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Gov. John Kasich last year signed a 20-week ban on abortion.
If enacted, the Ohio Life at Conception Act could set up a constitutional challenge to the legal right to abortion in the United States, which appears to be the lawmakers’ goal. Calling out the landmark decision in the memo to fellow legislators, they note, “Since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade, countless innocent children have died at the hands of the abortion industry. … The time for regulating evil and compromise is over. The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety, and recognize that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable right to life.”
The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade rejected the notion that a fetus is a “‘person’ within the language and meaning of” the Constitution.
Hood’s and Vitale’s offices did not respond to Rewire‘s inquiry about whether the impending measure was an avenue to overturn Roe v. Wade. But reproductive rights advocates believe it’s likely.
“This total abortion ban is designed as a test case for a Trump-influenced US Supreme Court to obliterate Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in an emailed statement.
The Ohio Life at Conception Act, she noted, isn’t the first effort by Ohio Republicans to overturn the landmark abortion rights decision. Copeland sees an identical aim in current legislation to outlaw abortion in cases involving Down Syndrome and in a bill to make it a felony to perform a common second-trimester procedure known as dilation and evacuation.
“Elected officials should work in the service of their community, not to abuse their position to impose their personal beliefs on their constituents,” she said.
Republican lawmakers in recent years have repeatedly pushed to give legal status to fertilized eggs. In 2015, legislators in 12 states introduced so-called personhood measures that ultimately failed. Colorado was the first state to put the “personhood” issue to voters in a 2008 ballot initiative. It failed that year, and in 2010, 2012, and 2014.