Less than a week after Barack Obama won Ohio in the presidential election, state Republicans have decided that there’s no time like the present to resurrect a controversial, possibly unconstitutional, and already-rejected bill that would sharply restrict abortions.
The so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected—which can be as early as 18 days in some pregnancies, or before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant. When the state’s House Health Action Committee first heard testimony on the proposed bill, two of the witnesses to “testify” were fetuses: that is, two pregnant women were given ultrasounds in the hearing room. One of the fetuses was less than cooperative, however, and its heartbeat proved difficult to hear. Regardless, the bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus said that “the bill was flawed” and would not be brought up for a vote.
“‘I think we’re close,’ said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. He would not comment about details of a compromise or what issues are still keeping the groups apart. ‘We’re going to keep the process close to the vest,’ he said. ‘We don’t want this to play out in the press. We’re still working on it, trading messages about the language. It’s not final yet.’”
You know, I can’t even imagine what language could be used to justify such a blatantly unconstitutional bill. Or what messages could possibly negate the fact that this bill would drastically curtail reproductive rights. Anti-choice organizations and politicians have been chipping away at abortion access, to say nothing of reproductive rights in general, for decades—almost since Roe v. Wade, in fact. Maybe we should be glad that their tactics are becoming more transparent and ludicrous; maybe that will make it easier to rally the forces of common sense and defeat such legislation.
But it’s been pretty obvious for a while now that legislative attacks on choice are growing more insistent and creative—personhood movement, anyone? While the outcome of this latest potential assault is far from clear, it seems well past the time that the pro-choice movement should be getting just as creative and outspoken at protecting the right to choose.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.