Ohio legislators are considering a bill that would punish abortion providers and patients with life in prison and even the death penalty.
House Bill 565 proposes that fetuses would be classified as “unborn humans,” which would be considered a person under Ohio’s criminal code regarding homicide.
That means abortions — from the time of conception to birth — could be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty under Ohio law.
The legislation was first proposed in March and was sent to the Ohio House’s health committee for consideration in June. It is sponsored by Republicans Ron Hood and Nino Vitale, and co-sponsored by another 16 House Republicans.
“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 when the bill was introduced last spring.
He also said it would be up to the prosecutor to decide what punishment to seek and who to charge, according to Cleveland.com.
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NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio criticized the proposal, calling it “unconstitutional legislation” that is “a clear effort to provide the U.S. Supreme Court with a case to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Brigitte Amiri, with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project, said there hasn’t been any real movement on the bill and it is unlikely to pass in the House. She said the legislation seems to be more of a “distraction” from another abortion bill that was passed last week by Ohio’s House of Representatives. It would ban abortions after six weeks.
“A six-week ban on abortion is the bill that is moving in the House and will probably be signed next year,” she said.
Ohio’s ‘heartbeat bill’ already passed
On Nov. 15, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill to ban patients from obtaining abortions after six weeks. Known as the “heartbeat bill,” it would ban abortions in the state after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
“This would basically be a virtual ban on abortion because of a lot of women don’t know they are pregnant then,” Amiri.
The Republican-controlled House voted 58-35 Thursday in favour of the bill, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest. The legislation, which is now headed to Ohio’s Republican-dominated Senate, would charge doctors with felonies, such as prison time or thousands of dollars in fines, if they perform an abortion after a heartbeat was detected.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who leaves office in January, said he would veto the six-week ban if it came to his desk before the end of his term. The Republicans hold “super majorities” in both the Ohio House and Senate, which means they could overturn a veto by the governor.
The ACLU called the measure “a total abortion ban” and promised to sue if it becomes law.
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Amiri said the six-week ban is unlikely to hold up legally in the lower courts, since Roe v. Wade protects abortion to the point of viability, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, she added the point of this bill is that lawmakers want to create a case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court and get them to consider reversing the landmark abortion case Roe V. Wade.
On Tuesday, a federal judge struck down a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, one of the most restrictive in the U.S.