In a great stride to protect the sanctity of human life, the Ohio State Senate passed the "Heartbeat Bill" Wednesday that would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The bill had already passed out of the Ohio House by a strong majority, but because the Senate amended the bill, it went back to the House. The House quickly passed the bill in concurrence, and it will now go to Gov. John Kasich—and his veto is likely. Ohio pro-life advocacy groups are hopeful the legislature will have time and be willing to convene for a veto override because of the magnitude of this bill’s importance.
Ohio’s action is one of the strongest pro-life legislative measures in the country because it would require an abdominal ultrasound to detect a heartbeat. When a heartbeat is detected (as early as 5-6 weeks), an abortion at that stage would be illegal. The bill also empowers the State Medical Board of Ohio to suspend physicians’ licenses for medical practitioners who are found to violate the law, even where there is not an associated criminal conviction. Democrat-proffered amendments that sought exemptions were also tabled, reportedly along party lines.
Pro-life advocacy and conservative policy groups, including the James Dobson Family Institute and Live Action, are encouraged by the passage of this solid measure to protect life and support the legislation. This comes as a welcome opportunity for Ohio to lead other states in reclaiming their constitutional authority to determine law on sanctity of life issues.
Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values in Ohio, said, “Planned Parenthood and abortion activists launched an all-out assault on the Ohio General Assembly. Yet our state leaders ignored the attacks and stood strong for life.”
Although pro-life laws will almost certainly be challenged in court, state legislatures should be emboldened to continue to pass robust sanctity of life measures, especially because of the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Even prior to Justice Brett Kavanaugh taking the bench, the Court was already trending back toward a proper model of federalism, with decisions such as Murphy v. NCAA and Janus v. AFSCME. States constitutionally have authority to determine their own laws on sanctity of life if for no other reason than as a simple procedural issue.
But perhaps most compellingly, as Josh Craddock succinctly writes, governments are obligated to preserve and protect the right to life at all stages of development as a substantive moral and legitimate legal authority issue:
“The structure of the argument is simple. The Fourteenth Amendment’s use of the word ‘person’ guarantees due process and equal protection to all members of the human species. The preborn are members of the human species from the moment of fertilization. Therefore, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the preborn. If one concedes the minor premise (that preborn humans are biological members of the human species), all that must be demonstrated is that the term ‘person,’ in its original public meaning at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption, applied to all members of the human species.”
Even in its original text, the Constitution recognizes the government’s obligation to protect the rights of the individual, and the Founders understood the innate personhood of the unborn and all the rights and privileges that come with being human. Rights are unalienable, as a Jeffersonian term in the Declaration of Independence, and this is also a concept derived directly from real property law: A presently unborn child’s right to inherit property in the future is legally protected. In this way, the unborn currently enjoy more protections in their right to own property than in their right to own their own life. This is absurd.
The Founders clearly intended to protect all the rights of the yet unborn and the future generations of Americans, with the right to life being the foundational and most basic and essential right. Without life, one cannot enjoy or exercise any other right, including property rights.
Now, Ohio stands poised to reclaim its legislative—and moral—authority. The big problem now is Gov. Kasich, who is thought to be reserving a veto until the last possible moment to prevent a veto override, and time is running out. If the legislature isn’t successful in an override, it would have to start with a new bill in January. Incoming Ohio Governor-Elect Mike DeWine has said he would sign the legislation, but it would have to go through the legislative process anew. Under Ohio state law, the legislature could override a Kasich veto with 20 House votes and 60 Senate votes.
Because of the short timeframe to sign the Heartbeat Bill into law this year, conservative policy groups are asking families in Ohio to contact their legislators and Gov. Kasich’s office to affirm the legislation and to persevere all the way to the finish line for every beating heart.
As Baer so rightly concluded, “Every year, tens of thousands of children lose their lives to abortion. Gov. Kasich has tried to claim he is a compassionate and caring leader. But actions speak louder than words. If he really cares for the most vulnerable, he must sign the Heartbeat Bill.”