On Tuesday, March 19, Senate Bill 23, a bill that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus, had its first hearing in the Ohio House of Representatives with the Health Committee. Senate Bill 23, sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner, a Republican from Hudson serving her first term in Ohio Senate after four terms in the Ohio House, would prohibit the abortion of an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat and establish a joint legislative committee on adoption promotion and support.
If passed, this bill would enact one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, as it could ban abortions as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, potentially before a woman is aware of her pregnancy. An amendment proposed by Democratic state Sen. Nickie Antonio would account for instances of rape, incest or mental health on the part of the woman, however, the amendment failed in the senate. State Sen. Sandra Williams sponsored an amendment that would demand health insurance coverage for maternity services if the mother is mandated to carry the child by the state of Ohio, but it also failed.
The bill would penalize doctors for unlawfully conducting an abortion as a fifth-degree felony, with exceptions only if the procedure was done to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, if the pregnancy risked impairment of the bodily functions or in the case of a medical emergency. There would be no exceptions made for instances of rape or incest, because as Roegner explained, all lives are equally protected under the law, including those of unborn fetuses.
In the health committee meeting on Tuesday, Democrat Rep. Janine Boyd asked Roegner how the bill would protect pregnant women. Roegner made the point that for rapists and human traffickers, “the abortion wipes away that act, and evidence it happened.” Thus the pregnancy serves as proof that a crime occurred, rather than an abortion which can be used to conceal the crime. This point was reiterated later in the hearing by Jessica Warner, director of legislative affairs at Ohio Right to Life, an anti-abortion interest group with the mission to end abortion in Ohio.
Democratic Rep. Allison Russo brought up an instance where a 12-year old girl experienced rape and incest and became pregnant and wondered how this bill would afford this young girl equal protection under the law. Roegner answered that submitting this young girl to such an invasive procedure as an abortion would be wrong and explained that the situation could be resolved by working with the adoption committee this bill would establish.
The health committee included many witness testimonies, including testimony by Christina Hagan, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives in the 50th district from 2011-2018. Hagan claimed that “a mother’s womb has become the most dangerous place in America for a baby to be” and that “the American womb is almost 160 times more dangerous than the most dangerous cities in the world.” Hagan is very much in support of the bill and warned that “infaticide is alive and well in our country.”
Warner addressed why Ohio Right to Life is only supporting this bill now and had not supported it the previous two times it had passed onto the governor’s desk, when Gov. John Kasich vetoed it, because the “Supreme Court is the most pro-life court seen in generations.” The passage of various bills like this across the country suggest that anti-abortion activists will eventually try for the overturning of Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court. Gov. Mike Dewine has promised that if the bill makes it to his desk, he will sign it.
Over the next few weeks, more hearings will occur in the Ohio House of Representatives on the issue of Senate Bill 23. These hearings can be streamed online and are also open to the public.