Ohio 'heartbeat' abortion ban moves closer to becoming law

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Republican-led Ohio Senate on Wednesday again passed legislation to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, moving the state a step closer to potentially enacting one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the country.

The senators' 19-13 vote sends the so-called heartbeat bill to the GOP-controlled House for consideration. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated he would sign such a ban if it clears the Legislature.

Similar measures approved by lawmakers were twice vetoed by DeWine's predecessor, Republican John Kasich, who said such a law would prompt a costly court battle and likely be found unconstitutional.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant. A handful of other states are considering Legislation to restrict abortions based on that marker.

The Ohio measure's sponsor, Sen. Kristina Roegner, of Hudson, said using the existence of a fetal heartbeat as the defining line is clearer than determining a fetus' fate based on its viability outside the womb, a marker established in court precedent. Roegner said viability can vary depending on the medical care and technology available under different circumstances.

Viability "is a moving target, and we need a new standard," she said. "The heartbeat bill provides a sensible solution."

Democrats unsuccessfully sought to include an exemption for cases involving rape and incest.

Sen. John Eklund, a Republican from Geauga County's Munson Township, said he believes all abortion is wrong but opposed the bill because it didn't include exemptions for such cases in which the pregnant females are victims.

"That creates or raises a deeply, deeply moral dilemma that I'm not altogether sure the Legislature should be making for that mother," Eklund said.

The bill does include an exemption if the pregnant woman's life is at risk.

The legislation's passage in the Senate continued a celebratory week for abortion opponents in Ohio, where a divided federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a state law that blocks public money for Planned Parenthood .