Ohio lawmakers make fourth attempt to pass 'heartbeat bill'

(Reuters/Adrees Latif)A pro-life activist holds a doll and banner while advocating his stance on abortion in this 2012 photo.

Ohio lawmakers have made their fourth attempt to introduce a legislation that would ban abortions when the unborn baby's heartbeat is detected.

On June 6, Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) introduced HB258, which would be the strongest pro-life legislation in the U.S.

The bill, which would outlaw abortions after six weeks, when an unborn child's heart begins to beat, has been offered now in four consecutive sessions of the General Assembly. In the first attempt, the measure was approved by the Ohio House, but it was stalled in the Senate. When the legislation was introduced for the second time, it failed to gain the required support to move it further.

In 2016, the House approved the measure again, and Republican senators added it to an unrelated legislation during one of their final voting sessions of the year. But Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed the legislation, opting instead to sign a 20-week abortion ban favored by Ohio Right to Life.

Some pro-life groups have expressed concern that the proposal could lead to court decisions that would undo other abortion restrictions in state law. Hagan, however, contended that she is not concerned about how the politics would play out on HB258.

"I believe that children with beating hearts deserve protection in the state of Ohio, and we should work toward that effort regardless of what the political climate ever looks like. You can't get distracted by variables you can't control," she told The Columbus Dispatch.

"Every chance we have to debate this, we have an opportunity to change hearts and minds on the issue," she added.

Proponents of the bill believe that it could potentially become a means to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

"Every time we have the discussion about the validity of the child in the womb, I believe we save lives," said Hagan. "I believe that these discussions encourage others to understand and extend that protection to the unborn, even if it's those in the Senate or the executive branch that haven't formerly supported the legislation," she continued.

Hagan's bill was co-sponsored by about 50 representatives, including House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville).

Kasich, who considers himself pro-life, noted when he vetoed the bill in 2016 that North Dakota and Arkansas have passed similar legislation, but it was struck down by the courts. The governor expressed concern at the time that the state of Ohio would be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees if the bill is challenged in court.

In January, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King introduced a similar measure titled Heartbeat Protection Act of 2017 at the federal level.

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