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Prospects for 'Heartbeat Bill' remain challenging

Published: June 13, 2017 4:00 AM

How do you convert hearts and minds?

In the world of abortion politics, advocates on each side of the debate say Ohio lawmakers should play a role.

We disagree, at least as it pertains to the reintroduction this week of the so-called Heartbeat Bill that would put some of the tightest restrictions on abortions found anywhere in the country.

As GateHouse Ohio Media reporter Marc Kovac reported recently, this session will mark the fourth consecutive in which the Heartbeat Bill has been offered in the General Assembly. The first time, it passed the Ohio House but stalled in the Senate. The second try went nowhere. Last session, the Ohio House moved similar legislation, and Republican senators added language and passed it as part of an unrelated bill late in the year.

Gov. John Kasich, however, vetoed the Heartbeat amendment, Kovac reported, and opted to sign a 20-week abortion ban.

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Despite the current legislation receiving co-sponsorships from about 50 Ohio lawmakers, there is no reason to believe it will fare any differently. Even if it makes it through the Legislature, Kasich still holds the veto pen.

The bill's primary sponsor, Republican Christina Hagan of Alliance, is undeterred.

"I believe that children with beating hearts deserve protection in the state of Ohio, and we should work toward that effort regardless of what the political climate ever looks like," she said. "You can't get distracted by variables you can't control."

What's interesting to note is that not all right-to-life groups are on board with the Heartbeat Bill.

One one hand, proponents say Ohio's legislation could become a step in overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion rights nationwide. On the other hand, they know that anytime a court gets involved, a decision could go the opposite way and chip away at restrictions already existing in state law. In other words, it's risky to go to court, and legal battles over the Heartbeat Bill would be a certainty.

That's a fight Hagan is willing to wage.

"Every time we have the discussion about the validity of the child in the womb, I believe we save lives," she said. "Every chance we have to debate this, we have an opportunity to change hearts and minds on the issue."

Perhaps.

At the same time, we would encourage Hagan and fellow lawmakers -- some of whom are being accused of using the Heartbeat Bill to grandstand -- simultaneously to address other issues facing Ohio's children, with legislation that stands both a good chance of passage and of surviving any legal challenges. They could start with overhauling a failing charter school system, which is a national laughingstock, or the funding formula for public schools that hasn't been fully rectified despite numerous court decisions that began decades ago. Or how about legislation to combat poverty, which affects an alarmingly high percentage of Ohio's roughly 1.8 million school-age children?

Want to win hearts and minds? Smartly and swiftly take on those challenges.


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