Article Dec 12, 2016

Ohio’s “heartbeat bill”

Last Tuesday, the Ohio Legislature passed a bill that would restrict abortion once a baby’s fetal heartbeat can be detected—as early as six weeks after conception. Ohio Gov. John Kasich now has up to 10 days to sign or veto the bill.

Lawmakers in Ohio previously declined to back similar legislation, fearing such measures would be struck down by the courts. But Keith Faber, president of the Ohio Senate, decided to support H.B. 493, the “heartbeat bill," because he now believes it “has a better chance than it did before.” In response to criticism that the bill would be challenged as unconstitutional, Faber argued, “A new president, [and] new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic.”

The “heartbeat bill” was passed as an amendment to a broader child welfare bill. According to state Sen. Kris Jordan, “The passage of this legislation in the Ohio Senate demonstrates our commitment to protecting the children of Ohio at every stage of life.” U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, who represents Ohio’s eighth district, also responded to the passage of this legislation:

“The protections provided in the Unborn Heartbeat Protection Amendment are a step in the right direction in protecting the most vulnerable among us, the unborn. I look forward to this becoming law and saving countless lives in Ohio.”

While the bill would “generally prohibit an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable heartbeat,” it does include exceptions for cases where a physician performs a medical procedure “designed or intended to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

Since Tuesday, opponents of the legislation have fiercely criticized both the “heartbeat bill” and the lawmakers who supported it, calling the measure dangerous and extreme. But missing from these criticisms is a recognition of the bill’s intended purpose. The bill was passed to save lives. More specifically, the bill was passed to keep hearts beating.

Something simply rings hollow when pro-life efforts are criticized as somehow lacking compassion or being anti-women. Seeking to end abortion is about protecting the vulnerable. As Melanie Israel of the Heritage Foundation comments:

“Advancing policies that protect the most vulnerable and defenseless among us will help hasten the day when every human being, from the moment of conception, is protected in law and welcomed in life.”

And despite facing considerable backlash, lawmakers in Ohio have gone even further. In addition to the “heartbeat bill,” on Thursday, the legislature sent a second piece of pro-life legislation, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, to Gov. Kasich for signature or veto. According to Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, it is this legislation—which would restrict most abortions after 20 weeks—that could “be a game changer for the pro-life movement.” In either case, both bills signal the Ohio Legislature's renewed commitment to protect the unborn.

It needs to be said that pro-life efforts are driven by a fundamental commitment to human dignity. For evangelicals, few things are more important than our common belief in the value of human life. We stand with those who have the courage to protect the most vulnerable among us. We believe that every human being, from the moment of conception, possesses intrinsic value and the right to life. And we will not apologize for fighting to keep the hearts of our children beating.

Rise 2017