COLUMBUS -- Lawmakers against abortion rights are preparing to go for the legislative equivalent of a Hail Mary, the toughest anti-abortion rights law in the nation, at a time when some in the movement argue it's too much too soon.A bit more on this:
With the GOP in control of both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office, a series of bills is being proposed for added steps to restrict abortion rights.
A group of legislators vowed Wednesday to forge ahead with a proposed law that would close the window during which a legal abortion may be performed in Ohio to within weeks of conception. Backers say nearly half of the members of the House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors a week before the bill formally will be introduced. Except in situations where the health of the mother is in danger, an abortion would be illegal once the heartbeat of a fetus is detected. The bill would require the doctor to find that heartbeat using "standard medical practice," a term not defined.
A doctor who violates the law could be found guilty of a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. The mother could not be charged.
The controversial legislation is one of the most stringent anti-abortion plans to be introduced in a state legislature to date.GOP: Pro-Fetus; Pro-Forced Birth; Anti-Woman, Anti-Family, Anti-Decency.
It clearly challenges the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade mandate, under which a woman has the right to abort a fetus until it is "viable," meaning that it's "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid." It's only at the point of viability -- "usually placed at about seven months" -- that states can restrict abortion.
"There are clearly fetuses that are not yet viable but have heartbeats," said Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional scholar and professor at Harvard Law School. "What they're doing is trying to push the point at which the woman's rights are subordinated to those of the unborn to a much earlier point in pregnancy. ... It's clearly a frontal challenge to Roe v. Wade."
The bill, one of five abortion-related pieces of legislation introduced within a week in the Ohio legislature, has a strong chance of passage. Republicans control all branches of Ohio's state government -- the House, the Senate and governorship and the state Supreme Court.
Supporters of the bill argue that it sets a new precedent that's grounded in science and that they're ready to fight it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We don't bury people with beating hearts, because the heartbeat is a sign of life," said Janet Folger Porter, president of Faith2Action, who helped craft the bill's language. "We are just applying that same measurement to this end of life and I believe the court is going to recognize -- just like it does with life at the other end of the spectrum -- it's going to recognize this line of life early on."
Similar bills are also being considered by legislators in Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma, and being discussed in Kansas and Arizona, Porter said.
Abortion rights groups say the move by Ohio Republicans is merely a political one that unfairly intervenes in the relationship doctors have with patients.
"They are making decisions for women in banning abortion basically before some women even know they are pregnant," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro Choice. "Technology can give us information but it can't make the decision for us."