Pro-choice supporters rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday as lawmakers moved closer to passing a controversial abortion bill.
The “Heartbeat Bill” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens around the sixth week of a pregnancy. Governor John Kasich vetoed a similar bill a few years ago but supporters of the latest version said they had enough votes to override a veto.
A few hundred people protested the bill on the steps of the Statehouse.
“There are already a lot of obstacles women have to go through in order to get an abortion,” said Angie, who didn’t want to give her last name, as she shared her story for the crowd about how she had an abortion after becoming pregnant with an abusive boyfriend. “Having a bill like this is going to make it even harder and unsafe for women to have these abortions.”
Supporters of the bill said a reason to try to pass the bill again was Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Pro-life supporters said his vote would likely tilt the US Supreme Court enough to uphold a six-week ban.
“They have been using this as a political football to score political points with their base for years, and years, and years,” said Jaime Miracle with NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “This isn’t politics anymore. This is people’s lives.”
Republican lawmakers are trying to pass the bill before the end of 2018 when the current legislative session ends. “Now is absolutely the time to pass the Heartbeat Bill,” said Rep. Christina Hagan (R – Alliance), one of the sponsors of the bill. “We need every minute and hour that we can get to send it to the right court makeup.”
Critics have said women don’t always know they’re pregnant after six weeks.
“They say women won’t know what’s going on with their own bodies. I disagree,” Hagan said. “I think women are very knowledgeable about the actions that they take.”
Ohio lawmakers have tightened restrictions on abortions for the last eight years with Republican control of the House, Senate, and governor’s office. Republicans will continue to control all three in 2019.
Pro-choice supporters worry the Heartbeat Bill would effectively end abortion rights in Ohio. “I’m not saying all women have to have abortions, but we should all have the decision to ‘do we want to have one’ or ‘do we not want to have one’,” Angie said.
The latest version of the legislation passed in the House with enough votes to override a potential veto. The bill had its first hearing in the Senate Tuesday. Lawmakers only have until the end of 2018 to pass it before the end of the current General Assembly.