Two Republican Ohio lawmakers have introduced a bill that would outright ban abortion in Ohio, legislation that some abortion opponents hope will push a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court to review past decisions legalizing abortion.
House Bill 565 would ban all abortions at all stages of pregnancy, even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. The bill makes an “unborn human” a person under Ohio’s criminal code regarding murder, manslaughter and homicide and allows wrongful death lawsuits.
Rep. Ron Hood, an Ashville Republican and bill sponsor, said it would be up to a prosecutor to decide what punishment to seek and who to charge. Unlike other abortion restrictions passed in recent years, the pregnant woman seeking an abortion could be charged with a crime.
“I believe life begins at conception so the goal of this bill is to first of all continue to get the word out that life does begin at conception and move the debate in that direction, and to protect unborn Ohioans from being aborted,” Hood said.
Rep. Nino Vitale, an Urbana Republican and joint sponsor, characterized the absence of exceptions for the mother’s life as a “save them both” bill. The bill does provide immunity for physicians who indirectly or unintentionally cause the death of a fetus.
Vitale said many women who get pregnant from rape later regret their decision to abort.
“Life isn’t always giving us things by our choice and I don’t want to put a woman through a second trauma after she’s been through such an awful first one,” Vitale said.
Eighteen other House Republicans signed on as co-sponsors.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the bill would allow doctors to be charged with murder, punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.
“Anti-choice extremists from the Ohio Statehouse to the White House are lining up their dominoes to topple Roe v. Wade and punish those who seek or provide abortion care,” Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement.
In 2016, Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed the “heartbeat bill,” which would have banned abortion as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. He said at the time that the heartbeat bill would likely be found unconstitutional and instead signed a 20-week ban.
Ohio lawmakers have taken an incremental approach to banning abortion, passing 20 abortion restrictions since 2011. The latest, a December 2017 bill that bans abortions after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome, was deemed unconstitutional last week by a federal court judge.
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, was not behind the new bill. Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said his organization is still reviewing the 184-page bill. He said a challenge to the 20-week ban — a bill his organization supported — could result in changes to precedent set by the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
“Ohio Right to Life believes life begins at conception and hopes that one day we can change the Supreme Court’s mind to allow Ohio to enact its own pro-life policies,” Gonidakis said.