By: Meggie Welch – Staff Writer
Correction: UD College Republicans representatives did not make a statement that the organization’s members were “excited by the possibility of the ban,” and that error has been corrected on the online version.
The Fetal Heartbeat Bill, which would make abortions illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, will be presented at the Ohio General Assembly before January 2017. This piece of legislation has drawn attention from congressmembers, advocacy groups and University of Dayton students from both sides of the argument.
The Fetal Heartbeat Bill would ban abortions after a heartbeat could be felt or heard in a fetus, which is usually about six weeks or less after conception, hence the other name for the bill, the Six-Week Abortion Ban. If the legislation is passed, Ohio would become one of the most restrictive states regarding access to abortion services.
The bill would apply to pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
The pro-choice groups – NORAL Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood and the UD College Democrats– are not enthused about the ban, but feel the bill will not pass.
The six-week ban has been on the floor in Ohio twice before, in October 2011 and August 2013. Neither of the attempts to get it passed were successful.
The unconstitutionality of the bill is what has stopped it in the past. According to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, states are not allowed to deny a woman access to an abortion before the fetus is capable of living outside the uterus, which usually does not occur until about 22 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy, according to the Huffington Post.
Those opposed to the ban say it is unconstitutional because it takes away women’s rights.
Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro-Choice executive director, is hopeful the history of the bill’s failure will foreshadow the legislation’s future.
“When will this legislature learn? These decisions must be made by women, not politicians,” Copeland said.
During a debate over the legislation, Ohio Rep. Teresa Fedor discussed her personal experience about how she sought an abortion after being raped, according to the Huffington Post.
“You don’t respect my reason, my rape, my abortion, and I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice,” she said. “What you’re doing is so fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional, and I’ve sat here too long.”
The University of Dayton, a Catholic institution, has an enrollment of about 11,000 students; 59 percent identify as Catholic. The Catholic Church’s stance on abortion is strict: no abortions.
“It is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” Pope Francis said in January 2014, according to Reuters.
Although the majority of the student population at UD is Catholic, there are pro-choice students in our community who oppose the six-week ban.
Zach Zugelder, junior political science major and president-elect of UD College Democrats, identifies as a Catholic and pro-choice supporter. Though UD is a Catholic university, he said he has never felt uncomfortable regarding his stance on abortion here and, if anything, his pro-choice attitude has been strengthened when surrounded by pro-lifers.
“I don’t believe abortions should be outlawed, but the situations that create the need for abortions should be,” Zugelder said. “It would unconstitutional to take away the right from the women and doctors, ultimately hurting anyone involved [with abortions].”
According to WNG.org, West Virginia passed the “pain bill” on March 6, which does not allow abortions past 20 weeks because it has been proven the fetus can feel pain after that point. This news has lifted the hopes of pro-life groups around Ohio, since this bill is similar to the Fetal Heartbeat Bill.
Margie Christie of Dayton Right to Life believes the ban will make it through Ohio legislature and prove to be successful. According to Christie, if the bill passes, it could cut the amount of abortions procedures in Ohio in half.
When asked if she thought the legislation was worth the process, Christie said, “Any piece of legislation that saves lives is a good piece of legislation for us and the community. Roe v. Wade will be difficult to overturn, so the current goal is to reverse incrementally the point at which an abortion is legal.”
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life organization, does not support this bill. The group instead advocates for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, rather than the six-week ban proposed by the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, according to Cleveland.com.
Keith Faber, the president of the state Senate, said the new legislation could be so extreme it would actually damage the pro-life cause, according to the Huffington Post.
“I have grave concerns that if the Heartbeat Bill were to be passed, it would jeopardize some of the good, pro-life work that we’ve done in the general assembly,” Faber said.
The overwhelming majority is held by the Republicans, who typically support pro-life legislature, which is why the pro-life groups are feeling confident about the future of the bill, which was introduced by the House Health and Aging Committee after a vote of 11 to six, according to the Huffington Post.
If the Fetal Heartbeat Bill passes, it could open debate for more pro-life agendas in the future.
“The chilling effect of this crusade is being felt throughout the medical community and will no doubt result in talented physicians leaving Ohio to practice in other states,” Copeland said, according to the Huffington Post.
Dayton Right to Life does not create legislature, Christie said, but it does give information to people who might be interested in supporting their cause against abortion. If the bill makes it further through the Ohio legislature, Dayton Right to Life will ask UD students to join it in support.