Heartbeat Bill Used to Divide Pro-Lifers, But That May be Changing

Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Two years ago, Ohio Governor John Kasich had the support of the state’s biggest pro-life group when he vetoed a bill to ban abortion after about six weeks, once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

Last week, the pro-life politician again vetoed a state “heartbeat bill”—only this time Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) took a different stance.

The organization wanted to see the state legislature override his decision. Though lawmakers failed to do so yesterday, ORTL plans to lobby his successor to sign the ban, considered the most restrictive abortion policy in the country, into law.

What changed over the past few years to prompt their new stance? In short, the Supreme Court.

For years, the pro-life movement has taken on different tactics toward a shared goal of eliminating abortion. ORTL adopted a “strategic incremental approach,” at times supporting more feasible abortion regulations—such as the ban on abortions after 20 weeks Kasich signed in 2016, or the ban on “dismemberment abortions” he signed this year—over more restrictive legislation that risked being turned down in the courts.

Kasich defended his veto with nearly identical wording last week as he did two years prior. “As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life, and I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life,” the outgoing Republican stated.

But the ban runs “contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion,” he said, referring to Roe v. Wade, which allows for the abortion of any child not viable outside the womb.

Back in 2016, ORTL president Mike Gonidakis agreed with Kasich’s assessment of the potential legal challenges, saying:

Given the current makeup of the United States Supreme Court, Governor Kasich got it right by embracing the strategic incremental approach to ending abortion. The current pro-abortion Supreme Court was given the opportunity on two occasions in 2016 to address heartbeat legislation, and both times refused to hear the case allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand. Both of those states’ heartbeat laws have been ruled unconstitutional, never took effect, and saved not one unborn life.

But this year, the organization was quick to point out that the bench is different now. “As we look forward, Ohio Right to Life believes that it is now time to embrace the heartbeat bill as the next incremental approach to end abortion in Ohio,” said Marshal Pitchford, chairman of the ORTL board of trustees.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra