COLUMBUS -- Republicans in the Ohio House announced plans Thursday to introduce a revamped Heartbeat Bill, nearly nine months after the initial legislation was aborted by the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate.
More than three dozen majority party members have already signed onto the new legislation, which would ban abortions within weeks of conception, whenever a fetal heartbeat is identified.
"There should be protection for a child at the point of a fetal heartbeat… ," said Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance.) "Where the fetal heartbeat is detected, the child should be protected."
She added, "It's a new general assembly, and we're ready to start the fire again, and we're ready for battle for what we believe is most important in this world, and that is life."
Democrats and abortion rights advocates quickly criticized the move, calling it a continuation of an "anti-woman agenda" that has already included controversial abortion-related measures included in the recently enacted biennial budget.
And they said the bill wouldn't withstand legal challenges.
"If Gov. Kasich signs this bill into law, the state will waste hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars defending it in court," Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a released statement. "Wouldn't those funds be better spent on programs to prevent unintended pregnancies, decrease pregnancy complications and increase access to prenatal care? Gov. Kasich and the legislature need to stop interfering in the personal, private medical decisions of Ohio women, and instead work to increase access to quality healthcare."
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) added in a released statement, "This bill would insert GOP lawmakers between a woman, her family and her doctor and take away women's ability to control their own bodies … These extremist attacks on Ohio women are outrageous and must come to an end."
The Heartbeat Bill was introduced in the last general assembly and passed in the Ohio House but died in the Ohio Senate after GOP leaders voiced constitutionality concerns.
The bill caused a rift between its backers and Ohio Right to Life, which initially did not support it. The latter has not taken a position on the new legislation.
The bill also caused tension between advocates and some Republican lawmakers who did not support it. Supporters sent Teddy bears with beating heart sound chips and roses to lawmakers to lobby their support and displayed a 30-foot inflated heart outside the Statehouse to urge a floor vote.
In addition to the abortion prohibitions, the new Heartbeat Bill will include the creation of a joint legislative committee to study adoption issues, as well as increased inspections of clinics to ensure the proposed law changes are being followed.
Hagan and other supporters believe the new bill could serve as the vehicle for overturning Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
"We're not willing to take 'no' for an answer," Hagan said. "We believe that every life is precious, every life is beautiful and that we have the ability to protect a child with a medical standard that every woman should receive when going through a pregnancy."
Lawmakers were joined by members of the Duggar family during a press conference at the Statehouse Thursday. The family, which includes 19 children and which was featured in a reality television program, pushed the Heartbeat Bill in their home state of Arkansas.
"Everybody knows that if there's a heartbeat, there's life," said Jim Bob Duggar, patriarch of the family. "If you find somebody in a car wreck, the first thing you do is check for a pulse. ... This is the silver bullet to bend people's minds about standing up for life."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.