COLUMBUS - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio vowed to challenge two bills that would severely limit women’s ability to make important pregnancy decisions. Senate committees will hear testimony on House Bill 79 and House Bill 125 over the next two days, and both bills are expected to be passed before the legislature recesses. H.B. 79 would prohibit health plans in the insurance exchange created by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from providing abortion coverage. H.B. 125 would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This is often so early into a pregnancy, that it would be tantamount to outlawing almost all abortions.

ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “Both of these bills are clearly unconstitutional and the ACLU will challenge them in court. House Bill 79 directly contradicts the new state constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters, and H.B. 125 presents the most radical abortion restrictions in the nation. Lawmakers should seriously consider whether it is worth wasting taxpayer dollars on costly litigation simply to earn a few political points.”

“Decisions on pregnancies should be made by families and medical professionals — not the legislature. Oftentimes, families must take a variety of health, financial, emotional, and personal concerns into consideration before deciding to go forward with a pregnancy,” added Link.

In November 2011, Ohio voters approved State Issue 3, which amended the state constitution to prohibit any rules or laws that would limit the purchase or sale of health insurance. H.B. 79 specifically prevents insurance plans from selling private abortion coverage, which contradicts the new state constitutional amendment. The ACLU will testify against the bill in the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee on Dec. 6, 2011 in the South Hearing Room at 4:00 p.m.

Since H.B. 125’s introduction, advocates from all sides of the abortion debate have raised serious concerns over the bills’ constitutionality. Ohio Right to Life announced that it would not endorse H.B. 125 because it believed it would not be upheld by the courts. H.B. 125 was passed by the Ohio House in June 2011, and will have its first hearing in the Senate on December 7, 2011 in the Senate Health, Human Services & Aging Committee. The hearing will be held at 2:00 p.m. in the South Hearing Room.

“The ACLU will not hesitate to challenge these unfair and unconstitutional laws, if they are passed. In a time when many programs such as education, mental health care, and law enforcement have experienced deep budget cuts, lawmakers should pause and consider whether they should waste more taxpayer funds defending unconstitutional laws,” concluded Link.