The Rundown

Ohio abortion bills by the numbers: Here’s what’s pending

By: - December 3, 2019 11:11 am
A medical exam room.

A medical exam room. File photo from

A number of abortion-related bills have passed at least one chamber of the Ohio legislature, or are being reviewed currently within the Statehouse. Legislation that would effectively ban abortions after about six weeks — Senate Bill 23 — passed the Senate in April with 18 votes in favor and 13 opposed. The House approved the bill with 56 voting for the bill and 40 against. The votes fell mostly along party lines, with four Republicans in the House and four in the Senate voting against the bill. No Democrats voted in favor.

State Sen. Kristina D. Roegner, R-Hudson, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 23. Photo from Ohio Senate website.

The law would prohibit abortion at the point of “detectable fetal heartbeat,” with no exceptions for rape or incest. It also allows doctors to face a fifth-degree felony for conducting abortions without performing an ultrasound to detect a heartbeat, or continuing with the abortion after identifying a heartbeat.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill on April 11, but the law is currently tied up in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio, with a judge this summer temporarily blocking enforcement of the law while the case is pending.

Opponents have disputed using the term “heartbeat” to describe the detectable sound at that stage of gestation.

Reporting in May, Wired quoted Jennifer Kerns, an OB-GYN at UC San Francisco and director of research in obstetrics and gynecology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

“At six weeks, the embryo is forming what will eventually develop into mature systems. There’s an immature neurological system, and there’s a very immature cardiovascular system,” she said. 

Kerns said the rhythm specified in the six-week abortion bans, “is a group of cells with electrical activity. That’s what the heartbeat is at that stage of gestation … We are in no way talking about any kind of cardiovascular system.”

Ohio Right to Life, meanwhile, said in a release this past spring that they view the legislation as “the best vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade and Ohio will be at the forefront of saving lives throughout our (n)ation.”

Here are the other abortion laws that are currently being considered in the legislature:

  • Senate Bill 208 – Passed by the Senate, introduced in the House: This bill states that “no person should purposely take the life” of a child born alive during an “attempted abortion,” and must take measures to “preserve the health or life of a child” born in that circumstance. Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, is the primary sponsor.

  • Senate Bill 155 – Passed by the Senate, introduced in the House: Under SB 155, physicians can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for failing to disclose “recent developing research” that the “intended effects” of the drug mifepristone, which can be used in combination with another drug for abortions, could be reversed in the first two days. Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, is the lead sponsor of the bill. The claim that abortions can be reversed is not supported by the medical establishment.
  • Senate Bill 27 – Passed by the Senate, referred to House Committee on Civil Justice: The bill requires that fetal remains of a surgical abortion be cremated or interred, and that either an abortion facility or the woman having the abortion pay for the cremation or interment. Women under the age of 18 must obtain parental consent as to the “disposition” of abortion remains. Former Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Miami Township, was the primary sponsor before he resigned from the legislature.

  • House Bill 413 – Referred to House Committee on Criminal Justice: Under the 700-page bill, criminal charges of “aggravated abortion murder” and “abortion murder” are created. Aggravated abortion murder is considered a capital offense under the bill, which can result in a death sentence in certain instances. The charges can be leveled against a woman getting an abortion and the person performing it. Doctors could avoid criminal charges if proven the woman would have died otherwise, or “taking steps to preserve life,” including, “if applicable, attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.” That is a procedure that does not exist in medical science. There’s currently no way to medically reimplant ectopic pregnancies. Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, and Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, are the primary sponsors.

  • House Bill 90 – Has had six hearings in the House Health Committee: The bill would require the state Board of Education and the Department of Health to develop an “instructional program and educational materials … to protect the humanity of the unborn child.” Rep. Niraj J. Antani, R-Miamisburg, is the primary sponsor.

  • House Bill 182 – Has had one hearing in the House Insurance Committee: Insurance providers would no longer be allowed to cover abortion services under this bill. Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township, Clermont County, is the primary sponsor.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.