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During the past week, the Ohio Senate and House passed House Bill 493. HB 493 includes the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or approximately six weeks into a pregnancy. If enacted, this would be the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the United States. There is no exception to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the health of the pregnant person. HB 493 presents a real possibility of dire consequences for the reproductive rights for the people of Ohio.
It should concern the citizens of Ohio that the Heartbeat Bill was tacked on as a last-minute amendment to an unrelated bill that was originally intended to prevent child abuse. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, claims that the amendment violates Senate rules because it was not filed in a timely manner prior to session.
Above all, the Heartbeat Bill is an attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that made abortion a legal right in the United States. Ohio Senate President Keith Faber claims that the outcome of the presidential election and the potential for new Supreme Court justice appointments caused his caucus to move forward with the introduction of the Heartbeat Bill. The president of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Kellie Copeland, speculates that advocates of the bill are hoping President-Elect Donald Trump will nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, who will work to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander, suggest the Heartbeat Bill affords the important liberty of life. However, if Republican lawmakers were really interested in liberty as well as lowering abortion rates, they would not attempt to enact laws as harmful as HB 493. The Republican Party celebrates personal freedom and liberty. The right to abortion affirms personal autonomy, and it should be recognized as such. In addition,
outlawing abortion does not lower abortion rates.
The reality, according to The Lancet medical journal, is that countries that have banned abortion have slightly higher rates of abortion than countries where abortion is legal. This means that people who seek to terminate pregnancies in places where abortion is banned are turning to extremely dangerous back-alley procedures, which can cause major medical problems, and even death.
If lawmakers are against abortion, they should support policies that actually reduce abortion rates. Access to affordable birth control, comprehensive sex education, and funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood all reduce abortion. Earlier in 2016, when the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich attempted to defund Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, the effort only targeted infant mortality prevention programing, intimate partner violence support and prevention programming, and HIV testing and treatment. This invaluable programming is a valid part of reproductive health, and aiming to cut it only does a disservice for everyone.
Ohio lawmakers are playing a dangerous game with the reproductive health access of its citizens. The Heartbeat Bill is a direct attack on the autonomy, quality of life and freedom of Ohioans, and it especially targets women of color and low-income people. The sooner Ohio lawmakers recognize and affirm abortion access is a right for people, the better. I implore citizens of Ohio to call Gov. Kasich over the next days and ask that he use his line-item veto to veto the Heartbeat Bill.
Reiya Bhat is a junior studying political science.