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Heartbeat Bill clears committee, ready for Ohio Senate vote Wednesday

(March 12, 2019) — A Senate panel voted the “heartbeat bill” out of committee Tuesday, pushing the controversial bill closer toward its likely enactment after weeks of contention and debate.

Senate Bill 23 — which would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — passed 8-4 in the Senate Health Committee. The bill likely will be considered on the Senate floor Wednesday, and is expected to easily pass the GOP-controlled legislature.

Similar legislation was introduced last session, but was vetoed by then-Gov. John Kasich. Current Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

The health committee held four hearings on the bill before Tuesday’s vote, leaving little discussion on its substance. Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, attempted to amend the bill to include exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and for women with mental health issues.

“There are women who — for mental health reasons — cannot continue with a pregnancy,” Antonio said. “Forcing a woman to carry that pregnancy to term really puts at risk their mental health, both during that time period and after.”

Both proposed amendments were tabled by voice vote.

Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Columbus, also introduced amendments that would allow hospitals to give victims of rape emergency contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and require mandatory health insurance coverage for maternity services.

“We know Ohio is fighting not only an infant mortality crisis, but also a maternal mortality crisis,” Maharath said. “It is our responsibility as legislators, to insure that women have access to basic maternal health needs, so they can give birth to happy and healthy babies.”

Those amendments also were tabled.

The committee also voted on Senate Resolution 41, which would urge Congress to enact a Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act to guarantee adequate medical care is given to babies born after surviving attempted abortions.

Anti-abortion rights advocates argued the resolution reinforces constitutional protections for “abortion survivors;” abortion-rights advocates said it used charged language to attack women that choose to have an abortion.

Ultimately, the resolution passed 9-3.