“The Heartbeat Bill”

A Message from President Pro-Tempore Keith Faber
On House Bill 125 (“The Heartbeat Bill”) and Abortion

Let me state what the proponents and sponsors of the Heartbeat Bill already know – if House Bill 125 is brought onto the Senate floor for a vote, I will, in fact, vote for it and add my name as a co-sponsor of the legislation.

As my voting record should indicate, I would like to see nothing less than an all-out ban on the tragic practice of abortion in Ohio. However, the bill now sits before a legislative panel that I do not serve on – the Senate Health, Human Services, and Aging Committee. The bill has already had a series of hearings, but as of now, in large part due to the many valid concerns identified with bill, the Heartbeat Bill has not been scheduled for a vote. Put simply, I will not have the opportunity to vote on this measure until after it completes the committee process and makes its way to the Senate floor.

House Bill 125 is just one of several pieces of pro-life legislation that has been introduced or passed during the current legislative session. In fact, the 129th General Assembly has already placed their support behind seven pro-life measures. Our commitment to protect the lives of the unborn has turned Ohio into a national leader when it comes to respecting all stages of human life. I supported each of those bills and was very proud to co-sponsor Senate Bill 72, which outlaws abortions after a child is viable outside of the womb.

Nevertheless, while all agree on the goal of eliminating abortion, House Bill 125 has sparked a debate within the pro-life community on how best to move forward to protect innocent lives. This divide has led Senate President Tom Niehaus to request that further hearings be delayed until a greater consensus within the pro-life community is formed.

To fully understand the differing opinions around House Bill 125, it is necessary to take note of the concerns that have been brought forth by groups such as, the Ohio Right to Life, National Right to Life and the Catholic Conference. These long-time pro-life advocates have been adamant in expressing that several of the bill’s provisions must be clarified or resolved before it is to move forward.

At the center of House Bill 125 is a provision requiring a pregnant woman to be informed of the child’s heartbeat before an abortion may be administered, otherwise known as the informed consent provision. When implemented in other states, a measure of this kind that makes known the presence of a heartbeat has been credited with preventing nearly 70-percent of intended abortions. Seemingly all within the pro-life community stand united behind an informed consent requirement, and the experts agree that such a provision is likely to survive any potential legal challenges.

However, the main controversy surrounding House Bill 125 concerns its prohibition of all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected. All parties agree that this provision is unconstitutional under the current application of Roe v. Wade. Proponents of the bill have refused to separate this section of the bill from the informed consent provision. Failing to separate these two provisions would delay the immediate benefits that can come through the enactment of an informed consent law, since it is a certainty that the complete prohibition would immediately be challenged in the courts. Many experts have indicated that any court challenge could jeopardize the recent progress we have made in defending the rights of the unborn.

It is true that before the Governor’s signature has a chance to dry on the bill, pro-abortion activists will file a lawsuit and a judge will immediately prevent the law from being enforced. Proponents of House Bill 125 acknowledged that the law would likely be overturned by both the Federal District Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court may then refuse to hear a challenge to the 6th Circuit Court’s ruling, or even uphold it, thereby leaving us with a stronger Roe v. Wade. Clearly, that is the exact opposite of what you and I have worked so long and hard for.

This was the argument made by James Bopp, Jr., National Right to Life’s primary lawyer for cases before the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Bopp testified before the Senate Health Committee that he felt that the Heartbeat Bill was “unconstitutional, imprudent, and dangerous.” According to Mr. Bopp, “the Supreme Court’s current make-up assures that a declared federal constitutional right to abortion remains secure for the present.” Additionally, he stated that a negative ruling on the legislation poses a significant threat of opening the door to a dangerous new precedent advanced by liberals on the Court that would negatively alter the test for future pro-life legislation.

Despite the debate on this bill, I would like to emphasize that all of us who are defending the sanctity of life at conception have the same goal, which is to protect human life at all stages. On the issue of House Bill 125, the two sides only differ on what is the best next step in achieving the goal of bringing an end to abortion in the United States. Therefore, Senate President Niehaus is reluctant to place the Senate in the middle of a strategic divide within the pro-life community by picking one strategy over the other.

It is my hope to continue working with ardent defenders of life like you, as well as my Senate colleagues, to craft and support pro-life legislation. I appreciate your support of this legislation and hope that you continue to support pro-life candidates at all levels of government so we that can ensure a friendly court is in place to finally overturn the mistake of Roe v. Wade. Enclosed are various materials and testimony on this issue to further explain this matter. Should you have future questions or concerns, please give me a call.

Letter on HB 125 from Senate President Tom Niehaus

Testimony of James Bopp, Jr., National Right to Life General Counsel before the Senate

Testimony of Lee Strang, Professor of Law, University of Toledo before the Senate