“Heartbeat Bill” Returns, Along With Our Promise to Sue
By Gary Daniels
Last December, Ohio’s so-called “Heartbeat Bill” ultimately expired when a majority of members in the Ohio House of Representatives voted against it as the legislative session wound down.
However, Statehouse watchers knew to expect it back some time after the new session started in January. They did not wait long as House Bill (HB) 69, the latest version of this legislation, was introduced in mid-February—two months after it was last rejected.
Strategy Behind HB 69
The bill’s fundamentals have not changed. HB 69 would outlaw abortion in Ohio after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which occurs as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. In other words, it is just as unconstitutional now as it was then.
The goal of supporters is to pass this law, provoke a lawsuit, have the case wind through the court system, and ultimately end up at the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Proponents believe SCOTUS will then vote to uphold the law, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and all related court decisions.
Why It Won’t Work
The problem with that legal strategy, which many lawmakers have subscribed to, is that it’s rooted much more in wishful thinking than anything else. First, there’s zero indication that SCOTUS is willing to abandon its thinking on reproductive rights in favor of such an extreme law. Second, the likelihood it ever makes it to the nation’s highest court is remote.
“Ironically, the more supporters push these laws and get them before judges, the more their plan backfires. That is, courts are further reaffirming Roe v. Wade instead of rejecting it. It’s for this very reason various anti-choice legislators, organizations, and individuals have made the decision not to support heartbeat laws.”
Similar laws from North Dakota and Arkansas have been struck down and are now being appealed. As this trend continues, the likelihood the Supreme Court will take any interest in this issue dwindles.
Ironically, the more supporters push these laws and get them before judges, the more their plan backfires. That is, courts are further reaffirming Roe v. Wade instead of rejecting it. It’s for this very reason various anti-choice legislators, organizations, and individuals have made the decision not to support heartbeat laws.
Earlier this week, the ACLU of Ohio testified against HB 69. As we have in the past, we let committee members know that if this bill passes and is signed into law we will sue. While we don’t think much of the theory espoused by the bill’s supporters, we stand ready to do our part and welcome additional court decisions rejecting fetal heartbeats as the standard for legal versus illegal abortions.