Ohio’s Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus decided he wasn’t going out like a chump in his final days of the lame duck session and did the right thing: he refused to bring up the nation’s most restrictive (and clearly unconstitutional) abortion bill up for a vote.
The leader of the Ohio Senate put a stop Tuesday to a bill that would have imposed the most stringent restriction on abortions in the nation.
The chamber doesn’t plan to vote on the so-called “heartbeat bill” before the end of the legislative session next month, Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus said, citing concerns the resulting law might have been found to be unconstitutional.
“I want to continue our focus on jobs and the economy,” Niehaus told reporters. “That’s what people are concerned about.”
The bill proposed banning abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It had fiercely divided Ohio’s anti-abortion community, while energizing abortion rights proponents who protested against it.
Backers hoped the stringent nature of the bill would provoke a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest and oldest anti-abortion group, and many state lawmakers expressed concern the limit would be unconstitutional — jeopardizing other abortion limits in Ohio and expanding access to legal abortions.
In other words, this was a bill so nuts that even Ohio Right to Life came out against it. (The argument over those cranks actually getting what they supposedly want being a serious problem for them financially is another matter altogether.) Sadly, in 2013 Republicans will still have a hefty majority in the upper chamber and Niehaus will be gone due to term limits. Should these nutters take another crack at it after January (and that’s all but guaranteed), we’ll get to play this game all over again next year.
Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess. All I know is there’s still a fight to be had and to be won.