Created on Sunday, 07 July 2013 Written by JULIE CARR SMYTH,AP Statehouse Correspondent
Q&A: How Ohio budget's new heartbeat law works
JULIE CARR SMYTH,AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new law on fetal heartbeat detection for abortion seekers was tucked into Ohio's recently passed state budget.
It shares similarities with the high-profile "heartbeat bill" debated and sidelined last session but also has key differences.
The two-year, $62 billion operating budget also included several other measures. They limited government funding for Planned Parenthood clinics and public hospitals that provide abortions and prohibited rape counselors receiving taxpayer dollars from recommending abortion facilities to women impregnated by their attackers.
The fetal heartbeat law would have the broadest impact since it applies to virtually every abortion sought in the state.
Here are answers to key questions about what the new law means:
Q: I heard Ohio law will now require informed consent. What does that mean?
A: It means that a procedure must be performed to check for a detectable fetal heartbeat and that information must be shared with the pregnant woman before she consents to an abortion.
Q: How will doctors check for the presence of the heartbeat?
A: The law requires doctors to use their "good faith understanding of standard medical practice" to check for the heartbeat, or to rely on future rules adopted by the Ohio Department of Health. The law says those rules can't require anything but an external exam.
Q: What happens if a fetal heartbeat is detected?
A: Once informed, the woman would still be free to get an abortion. It is for this reason that backers of last year's unsuccessful "heartbeat bill" say the new law won't prevent any abortions. Their bill would have prohibited abortions in cases where the fetal heartbeat was detected, sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Although it doesn't block abortions, opponents of the new informed consent law argue it puts undue emotional burden on the pregnant woman and poses new legal risks for doctors.
Q: What if a doctor fails to check for a heartbeat?
A: The abortion provider faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge on the first offense and a fourth-degree felony charge on each subsequent offense.