Calling it the “next step in our incremental approach to end abortion-on-demand,” Ohio Right to Life said the so-called "heartbeat bill" is headlining its agenda for the new two-year legislative session.

The group's support of the bill, which would prohibit an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at six or seven weeks of pregnancy, is relatively new. It spent years opposing or remaining neutral on the measure. But more recently, with President Donald Trump naming two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Mike DeWine indicating he will sign the bill, the group is now firmly supportive of its passage.

"A detectable heartbeat is the clearest indicator that life is present," said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. "Ohio continues to lead the nation in advancing pro-life policy and we are excited to engage our pro-life legislature and governor.”

Gov. John Kasich signed 21 bills reducing abortion rights into law but twice vetoed a heartbeat bills that did not include exemptions for rape or incest. He argued that it was likely to be struck down by the courts, as have similar laws in Iowa, Arkansas and North Dakota. A legislative attempt to override the veto fell one vote short in the Senate last month.

Expect majority Republicans in the House and Senate to introduce heartbeat bills this session. Gonidakis said Sens. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, and Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, will sponsor the Senate bill, with support from GOP leadership.

Abortion rights supporters have sharply criticized the heartbeat bill as an attempt to outlaw virtually all abortions in Ohio, considering a number of women don’t realize they are pregnant prior to six weeks.

“Women’s lives and our right to decide whether to have an abortion is not a political game; women and families suffer when abortion is pushed out of reach,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We will never stop fighting on behalf of women in Ohio and across the country.”

The ACLU of Ohio says oral arguments in its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law banning abortions that are related to a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome will be held Wednesday morning at the 6th U.S. Circuity Court of Appeals in Cinncinnati. That law was signed in late 2017.

Ohio Right to Life says other items on its agenda include:

• Prohibiting any form of compensation for fetal tissue or organs, and would penalize engaging in this trade.

• Requiring the humane burial or cremation of a fetus’ remains following an abortion and increase informed consent.

• Mandating abortion facilities to inform women that chemical abortions can possibly be reversed.

• Barring the use of telemedicine for providing abortion-inducing drugs.

• Providing more funding for pregnancy centers in Ohio.

jsiegel@dispatch.com

@phrontpage