The Ohio state senate is currently considering a piece of legislation which is causing some division within the pro-life movement. The bill, HB 125, which is known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” states that no abortion can be committed in the state of Ohio if a baby has a “detectable heartbeat,” except “to prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” This bill, if enacted and enforced could provide legal protection for unborn children as young as 18 days old.
Unsurprisingly, pro-lifers involved with the personhood movement oppose this bill. They reject most “incremental” pro-life bills and usually only support legislation which would provide legal protection to all unborn children. However, other pro-life groups which are usually sympathetic to the incremental approach are opposing this bill as well. For instance, Ohio Right to Life, the state affiliate of National Right to Life, is publicly opposing the Heartbeat Bill. They argue that this bill would be struck down by the courts. They also argue that the current composition of the Supreme Court makes this a poor time to launch a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Regardless, it is heartening to see so much interest around the country in pro-life legislation. So far in 2011, eight states have voted to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood. Six states — Nebraska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama — have enacted fetal-pain laws. These laws protect unborn children after 20 weeks, when there is medical evidence that the unborn can feel pain. Additionally, eight states have banned abortion coverage in new insurance exchanges. Pro-lifers have also responded to technological developments as five states banned the use of telemedicine for the provision of abortion medication. The Guttmacher Institute reported that in the first six months of 2011 alone, states have enacted a record number of pro-life laws. Ohio’s controversial bill is part of this overall trend.
— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan – Dearborn and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J