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More Restrictions Added to Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega More Restrictions Added to Ohio’s Heartbeat BillPhoto via Flickr.
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Ohio’s proposed “heartbeat bill” (SB 23) just got a bit stricter. As passed by an Ohio House committee this Tuesday, the new version of the six-week abortion ban would impose steep fines on abortion providers and promote the use of an invasive transvaginal ultrasound procedure.

The House Health Committee has amended SB 23 to allow the State Medical Board to levy a $10,000 fine on doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Revenue from those fines would go to a new “Foster Care and Adoptions Initiatives Fund” that the bill establishes.

The latest version of the bill also dictates that “the rules must not exclude transvaginal ultrasound as a method of detection [of a fetal heartbeat], nor exclude any other current or new technology procedure.” Transvaginal ultrasounds can often detect a fetal heartbeat sooner than an external ultrasound.

Pro-choice organizations oppose SB 23 and express concern over the invasiveness of a transvaginal ultrasound. They also worry that dollars committed to the Foster Care and Adoptions Initiatives Fund could end up supporting crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which have a reputation for pressuring women to delay their abortions.

“The heartless six-week abortion ban was already cruel and dangerous enough, essentially outlawing all abortion in the state,” says Stephanie Craddock Sherwood, Executive Director of Women Have Options-Ohio. “The new language added to the bill just serves as insult to injury — to fine doctors to help fund anti-abortion fake clinics and encouraging, for no medical reason, the use of a penetrative ultrasound for anyone seeking an abortion. This is just cruel.”

Ohio is not alone in its pursuit of passing the strictest abortion ban on the books nationwide. Alabama has introduced a bill to make abortion a felony, prohibiting the procedure at any point during a pregnancy, including in cases of rape or incest.

Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia have all signed into law their own bans on abortions at six weeks, meaning women will have to be aware of their pregnancy before or shortly after missing a period.

This third iteration of Ohio’s six week ban, reintroduced by Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) in February, is on the fast track for passage. It’ll head back to the Ohio House Health Committee next week for a vote before going to the House floor. From there, the Senate will decide on the changes proposed and either make further amendments or send it to the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine has said he would sign the bill, which former governor John Kasich vetoed twice.

If DeWine signs the bill, there’s still a 90-day period before it becomes law. Gary Daniels, of ACLU of Ohio, testified against the heartbeat bill at the committee hearing on Tuesday, and spoke on the likelihood of the bill to face death by the courts.

“In past hearings on this total abortion ban and similar legislation, the ACLU of Ohio typically reminds committees these measures go far beyond what courts deem to be acceptable restrictions or regulations. Of course this time is no different,” says Daniels. Arkansas passed a so-called heartbeat bill that applied after 12 weeks. It was struck down in federal district court, the appellate court affirmed that decision, the US supreme court refused to hear an appeal.

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