Heading Logo


Ohio Senate signs off on abortion legislation

Essentially bans abortions after 13 weeks

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: June 28, 2017 9:23 AM

COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate is poised to move legislation that would ban a commonly used abortion procedure, generally blocking abortions about 13 weeks after conception.

The Senate Judiciary Committee signed off Tuesday on SB 145, setting up a potential floor vote today during what could be the Senate's final voting session before lawmakers' summer recess.

The committee vote, along party lines with Democrats opposing, came after testimony from several opponents and one proponent of the bill.

Also, a group of sixteen women, dressed in red robes and white bonnets -- a reference to the dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale" -- stood silently in the hallway and then inside the room to show their disapproval.

A similarly sized group, dressed in T-shirts featuring pictures of fetuses, sat in the front row of the committee room to show their support for the bill.

[Article continues below]

SB 145 is the latest in a series of mostly Republican-backed bills aimed at restricting abortions. Last session, lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed legislation that would ban abortions about 20 weeks after conception, when an unborn child could feel pain.

The new legislation would ban the "dismembering [of] a living unborn child and extracting the child one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the child's body to cut or rip it off, with the purpose of causing the child's death," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.

The bill includes exceptions for cases where the mother's health is endangered.

The procedure is widely used for abortions after about 13 weeks of pregnancy. Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and other supporters of the bill have cited Ohio Department of Health statistics showing that nearly 3,000 of the dilation and evacuation abortions were conducted in in Ohio in 2015.

"This state, indeed this nation, has already prohibited partial-birth abortion[s] on a living unborn child," Barry Sheets, representing a coalition of groups that oppose abortion, said in committee testimony Tuesday. "The only real differences between that action and the one that is the subject of SB 145 is the location of the child when it is killed (either in the womb, or in the birth canal partially delivered), and the state of the baby's body upon completion of the act (whether intact, or in pieces)."

[Article continues below]

He added , "It is time that Ohio take the only logical step and that is to prohibit this act."

But women's health and other advocates urged rejection of the measure Tuesday, questioning the constitutionality of the legislation and voicing concern about its potential impact on health care access.

Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the procedure that would be banned under SB 145 was preferred by physicians as the safest alternative for mothers.

"I am not sure about you, but when I am facing a medical procedure, I rely on the fact that the medical practitioner performing the procedure will do it in the most effective, and safe way possible; that they will use their training and experience to determine how best to treat me, based on my medical history and possible complicating factors," she said. "I know I didn't go to medical school for four years, spend years in residency and fellowship programs, and based on the bios of the members of the committee, none of you did either."

She added, "This body should not be tying the hands of medical practitioners, forcing them to use procedures that are not the evidence based, medically preferred procedure just because it fits as the next opportunistic step towards banning abortion further in our state."

Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said in separate testimony that comparable prohibitions are being legally challenged in other states where they have been enacted.

" Courts and judges considering these cases have concluded the same things offered in our opponent testimony," he said. "D&E bans are essentially bans on all second-trimester abortions, complying with D&E bans involve[s] intrusive and risky procedures, and the burden this places on women and clinics renders these laws unconstitutional."

SB 145 was one of two abortion bills up for hearings before Senate committees Tuesday. Later in the day, SB 164, the Down syndrome abortion legislation, had its first hearing before the Senate's Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee.

The legislation would prohibit abortions in cases where the procedure is sought only because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Women who pursue such abortions would be immune from criminal penalties; the legal consequences for breaking the ban would fall on the physicians involved, who could face criminal penalties or license revocations.

SB 164 includes requirements that doctors report abortions they conduct to state health officials and affirm that they are unaware of Down syndrome diagnoses as being the sole reason for the procedure.

"The life of a child with Down syndrome is not worth any less than the life another child," said Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson), primary sponsor of the bill. "This legislation will protect the lives of unborn children with disabilities and value them as equal members of society."

A similar bill was offered last general assembly, and a House committee signed off on it, but that legislation was not brought to the House floor for a final vote.

Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.