Medina County’s two state representatives are among 50 sponsors of legislation aimed at banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
The bill would prohibit abortions for fetuses with a detectable heartbeat, which typically develops about six weeks after conception.
State Rep. Steve Hambley, of Brunswick, who represents eastern Medina County, including the cities of Brunswick, Medina and Wadsworth, and Dave Hall, of Millersburg, who represents the remainder of the county, joined 47 other Republicans and one Democrat in sponsoring House Bill 69, also known as the “heartbeat bill.”
“I’ve always said that I’m pro-life,” Hambley said. “This is certainly important and it’s why I’m supporting the bill.”
Hambley said the fact that the bill has 50 sponsors bodes well for it passing the House and moving on to the Senate. Similar legislation passed the Ohio House in 2011, but failed to gain any traction in the Senate.
In December, a different version of the legislation failed to get 50 votes to move it out of the 99-member House.
Since then, changes have been made to the bill that would allow doctors to perform an abortion if there was a grave risk to the life of the mother or if there are serious health complications.
Trish Shaw, who belongs to Medina County Right to Life and the Pro-Life group at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick, said she was happy to see the legislation move to the House floor.
“I think anytime we have legislation that will benefit the unborn or pre-born is a great thing,” she said. “We believe and defend life from natural conception to death.”
Not everyone is cheering on the legislation.
Since its introduction Tuesday, several women’s health care groups have spoken out against it.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, which operates a clinic in Medina that provides abortion referral services, called the legislation a restriction on health care services for women.
“Politicians do not know or understand a woman’s specific situation,” Planned Parenthood CEO Stephanie Kight said. “They shouldn’t be allowed to make personal decisions on her behalf.
“Women, their families and physicians should be trusted and respected to make the health care decision that is best for their family.”
Kight called the law unconstitutional and warned the group would fight the bill.
“All prior attempts to advance this six-week abortion ban have failed, as they should, and it is irresponsible for the Legislature to entertain this legislation once again,” she said.
Some Right to Life groups also have raised concerns that the bill could face a court challenge that could nullify existing abortion restrictions.
Ohio Right to Life, the statewide anti-abortion advocacy group, has raised concerns in the past about the heartbeat bill. It has remained silent on the bill introduced Tuesday, but announced it plans to ask for legislation that would ban abortions at 20 weeks.
The so-called “pain-capable bill” would be based on the group’s argument that a fetus can feel pain at gestation of 20 weeks.
Hambley said he also plans to support that legislation.
“I’m also going to support the legislation Ohio Right to Life is asking for,” Hambley said. “I don’t know how the two bills will work through the process, but maybe the Senate could consider a combination of both.”
Hambley said he wasn’t sure how the heartbeat bill or the forthcoming pain-capable legislation would fare in the Senate or if it gets to Gov. John Kasich for a signature. He said he looked forward to hearings on the initiatives that could shed more light on the legal ramifications and implementation.
“I think the misgivings I had about the legality of it or the likelihood that the courts will intervene, those will be worked out during the (hearing) process,” he said.