Abortion foes push fetal heartbeat requirement
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A nationwide coalition of anti-abortion groups said Wednesday it is preparing to push legislation in all 50 states requiring that pregnant women see and hear the fetal heartbeat before having an abortion.
Ohio Right to Life director Mike Gonidakis said the effort follows Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann introducing similar legislation at the national level. Gonidakis said it was not a response to a bill moving through the Ohio Legislature that would outlaw the procedure at the first detectable heartbeat, a measure that would impose the nation’s most stringent abortion limit if passed.
“We know it can withstand a judicial challenge, and we know it’s an approach that’s worked over the years. Hundreds of thousands of babies are alive now because their mother’s heard the heartbeat and changed their minds,” he said.
The coalition’s push comes as backers of the proposed the more stringent Ohio bill cheered growing enthusiasm for their bill with the creation of a new statewide pro-life political organization, Ohio Pro-Life Action.
Ohio Right to Life has withheld support for the “heartbeat bill” banning post-heartbeat abortions on grounds it can’t withstand a court challenge under Roe v. Wade. The landmark U.S Supreme Court ruling sought to strike a balance between states’ rights to limit the procedure and a woman’s right to privacy.
Tying an abortion limit to the fetal heartbeat has the potential to prevent abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant.
The proposal has caused bitter divisions within the anti-abortion community in Ohio, home state of International Right to Life founder Jack Willke.
Willke, of Cincinnati, threw his support Wednesday behind the new group, Ohio Pro-Life Action. He resigned from the board of Ohio Right to Life in August. Gonidakis said his resignation letter cited his failing health.
The informed-consent bill would require abortion practitioners to make the fetal heartbeat audible and visible to the pregnant woman before an abortion. Gonidakis said it’s been in the works for six months, and has been vetted with coalition lawyers.
“This is it. This is the one that’s going to continue to save lives in the current court environment we have,” he said. He called the informed-consent bill’s backers “the heavy hitters of the movement.” They include National Right to Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council Action.