By ANN SANNER
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers are revisiting a proposal to effectively ban abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, the previous sponsor of the bill, told The Associated Press that he and others will announce plans to reintroduce the so-called “heartbeat bill” at a Thursday news conference.
About 40 of the 99 Ohio House members have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors, said Wachtmann, a Republican who chairs of the House Health and Aging Committee.
The GOP-led House passed the abortion measure last year, but it failed in the Republican-dominated Senate after the GOP leader there blocked it from a vote. He has since retired due to term limits.
It’s unclear how far the bill would get in the Senate, where Republicans hold 23 of 33 seats.
A spokesman for the Senate Majority Caucus declined to comment on the House bill, noting that the measure could change if or when it gets to the chamber.
“Our caucus has done a lot to advance the cause of life, and our members are satisfied with the work that we’ve done so far,” spokesman John McClelland added.
Ohio lawmakers added abortion restrictions into the state budget that passed in late June. Among them was a requirement for doctors to check for a detectable fetal heartbeat and share the information with the pregnant woman before she consents to an abortion.
The heartbeat bill had fiercely divided Ohio’s anti-abortion community, with some fearing a court challenge could undo other abortion restrictions already in place. It also energized anti-abortion rights groups who rallied against it.
Backers hoped the stringent nature of the heartbeat bill would provoke a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
North Dakota approved a similar heartbeat bill earlier this year. But last month, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect, calling it “clearly invalid and unconstitutional.”
And in Arkansas, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the state’s law that bans most abortions 12 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy from taking effect this month while a legal challenge is pending. The law is tied to the date when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by an abdominal ultrasound.
Wachtmann acknowledged in a Wednesday interview that he expected the bill to encounter hurdles. Still, he said he wanted to give it another shot.
“I wouldn’t introduce a bill if I didn’t think it could be done,” said Wachtmann, of Napoleon, in northwest Ohio.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” are also expected to speak at Thursday’s news conference.
By ANN SANNER