Created on Thursday, 15 August 2013 Written by ANN SANNER,Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — 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.
The Senate's new president has said the fate of certain hot-button social issues will depend on his GOP colleagues, who hold 23 of 33 seats.
"If the members want to have a heartbeat bill and have it debated and have it come to the floor, I'm not going to get in the way of that," state Sen. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, told reporters at the start of the year.
The heartbeat measure 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.
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.
Backers hope the stringent nature of the heartbeat bill will 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.
Last session's push for the Ohio bill had been one of noisiest lobbying efforts in recent state memory.
Ultrasounds were performed at the hearing on two women who were early in their pregnancies, so legislators could see and hear the fetal hearts. Proponents delivered bouquets of red heart-shaped balloons and teddy bears to lawmakers, and eventually turned to angry full-page ads in the Columbus newspaper.
Opponents also grew vocal. They rallied at the Statehouse during key votes, arguing the legislation could endanger the lives of women, forcing them to seek the procedure in unhealthy circumstances.