The Ohio Senate has passed a modified bill to ban abortions when the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat, and backers could have enough votes to override a promised veto from Gov. John Kasich.
The 18-13 vote on House Bill 258 came Oct. 12, with four Republicans voting against the bill. Though 20 votes are required to override a veto, two absent Republicans’ votes could still help the bill become law.
An override vote would have to take place during the week of Christmas before the official end of the legislative session Dec. 31. Senate president Larry Obhof did not seem enthusiastic about the possibility of a Christmas week vote, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Kasich, a Republican, has a strong pro-life record, signing into law at least 18 abortion regulations or restrictions, including a 20-week abortion ban. The heartbeat bill is the only one he has vetoed, doing so in 2016, when legislators did not have the votes to override him.
Kasich is about to leave office in January for Governor-elect Mark DeWine, a Republican who supports the legislation.
The Ohio Senate passed an amendment clarifying that the bill would not require the use of a transvaginal ultrasound to detect a heartbeat, which would extend the period of pregnancy before a heartbeat can be detected. It removed language that would have allowed the state to suspend a doctor’s medical license before a crime related to abortion is proved in court.
The law allows exceptions to prevent a woman’s death or bodily impairment, or in cases of medical emergency.
Republican votes in committee and on the Senate floor rejected several Democratic amendments, including one that would have added exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
The House of Representatives passed the bill last month by a vote of 60-38, exactly the number of votes needed to override. Once the House agrees to the Senate’s changes to the bill, the governor would have ten days from a bill’s passage to veto it, excluding Sundays.
The Ohio Catholic Conference on Nov. 15 said it supports “the life-affirming intent of this legislation,” but stopped short of endorsement. The conference said it will continue to assist efforts to resolve “differences related to specific language and strategies.”
“In the end, the Catholic Conference of Ohio desires passage of legislation that can withstand constitutional challenge and be implemented in order to save lives,” the Catholic conference said.
Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who is a past leader of Ohio Right to Life, said Dec. 12 that women who had testified against the bill spoke about their abortions with “tears in their eyes, pain in their heart,” the Columbus Dispatch reports.
“I have never had a woman cry when she said she chose life. Not once. Not a single time,” she said. “Because in our hearts we know this is a human life.”
The bill’s text makes clear that a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion is not considered in violation of the law. Rather, it allows her to take civil action against the abortion doctor involved if it is proven he or she broke the law, on grounds related to the “wrongful death of the unborn child.”
The legislature is expected to pass a bill to ban the dilation and extraction abortion procedure, typically used between 13 and 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Ohio law currently bars abortion 20 weeks or more after conception, based on when an unborn child can feel pain. Pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is considering a legal challenge to that law.