COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House of Representatives is considering a bill that criminalizes abortion, redefines the state’s definition of “person” to include “any unborn human” and leaves the door open for extreme penalties for women and abortion providers.
The law would effectively ban abortions in Ohio and means that women who get them — and the doctors who perform the procedure — could be charged with murder and potentially face the death penalty.
In its current form, House Bill 565 makes no mention of exceptions for life-threatening pregnancies, or pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
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The bill is sponsored by Republican Reps. Ron Hood and A. Nino Vitale, and co-sponsored by a group of 16 other Republican lawmakers that include 14 men and 2 women.
“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.
The bill is just the latest strict abortion legislation to come out of Ohio. Earlier this month, the state’s House passed HB 258, known as the “heartbeat bill,” which would ban all abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This can occur as early as six weeks, possibly even before a woman knows she is pregnant.
The heartbeat bill has sparked pushback. Governor John Kasich has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, as he did with a similar bill in 2016. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, the state chapter of a national abortion-rights organization, called the heartbeat bill “horrific” and “unconstitutional.”
“Anti-abortion ideologues should not attempt to insert politics between a patient and their physician,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement regarding HB 258.
HB 565 was first introduced in March, but has come back to public attention due several converging events: The midterm election, the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the passage of the heartbeat bill.
NARAL’s Copeland told CNN she hasn’t seen a big push to move HB 565 forward. But it’s still a point of major concern for her group.
“This bill is disturbing because it has been co-sponsored by a lot of legislators, and would equate abortion with murder in Ohio,” she told CNN.
Copeland says more abortion opponents are voicing support for punishing not just physicians for giving abortions, as they would be under HB 258, but women for getting them.
“This tells you what our opponents ultimately would like to see. They wrote this because they and others would like to see this, in Ohio and in the country.” she said. “It was also written to be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and now that conservatives have a majority on the Supreme Court, we can’t know for sure that they would protect that ruling.”
The renewed attention over Ohio’s HB 565 comes the same week a Mississippi judge struck down an extreme abortion law. Last spring Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the Gestational Age Act into law, which would have banned any abortions after 15 weeks.
But a federal judge just blocked the law, saying it defies Supreme Court precedents and “unequivocally” infringes upon a woman’s constitutional rights.