Unlikely Foes: Ohio Heartbeat Bill Splits Pro-Lifers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Dozens of bills calling for greater abortion restrictions are advancing through various state legislatures.

Nowhere is the debate gaining more attention than Ohio, where there is a move to protect babies based on a heartbeat. 
    
State lawmakers are considering the heartbeat bill, a measure that would ban abortion on fetuses once a heartbeat is detected. If signed into law, it would be the most protective pro-life law in the nation.

"This will save 95 percent of the babies who would otherwise be aborted," Janet Folger Porter, president of the pro-life group Faith2Action, explained.

"In Ohio, that translates to 26,000 babies every single year, which is a school bus full of children every single day," she said.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court gave women the right to an abortion until their fetus is viable or able to live outside the womb. Only at that point does the high court ruling allow states to restrict abortion. 
 
Heartbeats can be detected as early as 18 days into a pregnancy - and by six weeks in most cases.

Why It's Important
 
Dr. Carmen Doty-Armstrong, an obstetrician, explained to CBN News the medical significance behind this bill.

"From a physician's perspective, the verbiage of the heartbeat bill makes perfect sense," she said. 

"A detectable heartbeat is the critical parameter that signifies life for every patient," she explained. "As an obstetrician, I look for a heartbeat on every ultrasound performed as it identifies life."

That's the key of the bill successfully championed in the Ohio House Rep. Lynn Watchman.

"This heartbeat bill, it is a big step in asking our federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, to take another look at Roe vs. Wade," Watchman told CBN News.

That's the goal of many pro-life Americans like pastor and teacher Dutch Sheets and Ohio resident Karen Savage.

"I feel like we're here in a time of great destiny - a nation could turn literally because of what is happening here," Sheets said.

"Every life has a purpose," Savage said. "God has a plan for every single life, and I'm here to support God's vision not only for Ohio but for our nation and our world."

Unlikely Foes

One group of abortion activists saw the matter differently.

"It's going to mire our state in millions of dollars in debt at a time when we can't afford it," said Jamie Miracle, policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

"As a free country we believe that this should not be pushed as law," said Ohio resident Cathy Levy, who also opposed the heartbeat bill.

But it's not just pro-choice groups speaking out against this legislation.

"There are very prominent members of the pro-life community that are not sold on the strategy," state Sen. Peggy Lehner (R) noted.

Lehner, who spent 40 years fighting abortion, is concerned about potential legal challenges.

"Is the Supreme Court really ripe for this decision?" Lehner asked.

"I think it's an important question to ask because if you throw something at the court before they're ready for it, you run the risk of Roe being reaffirmed once again," she said.

The Ohio chapter of the National Right to Life also has doubts, but a spokesperson would only tell CBN News, "It's just not the right time."

Others like Johanna Dasteel, senior congressional liaison with the American Life League, agree.

"I think that the idea behind it is notable, and we agree with the idea that we should humanize the pre-born child in order to win back their rights," Dasteel told CBN News.
 
However, Dasteel said the overall strategy is flawed because the bill only protects babies whose heartbeats can be detected. She believes all babies should be protected.

"We diverge from this bill because while it does point to the heartbeat as an indicator of life, it also provides that it's a qualifier of being protected, and that's where we can't support it," she explained.

No Time Like the Present?

Despite divisions within the pro-life community, many in the state believe the time is now for the beating hearts of babies to be protected.

"I'm fairly confident that Gov. Kasich will sign this bill into law," Watchman said. "The end result will be we've set a good example for other states to follow in protecting life."

Some of those states stand ready to follow Ohio's lead in adopting heartbeat legislation.

"As we humble ourselves, as we pray, as we turn from our wicked ways, we're going to see God hear from heaven and forgive our sins," Porter told CBN News.

"This is what's going on right now in Ohio, and I believe as we've heard the motto again and again that with God, all things are possible," she said.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.