‘Heartbeat bill’ stalled

The Ohio Lady Advocates have a mission: to secure reproductive freedom.

“Our goal at YSU is to alert the students to these issues, tell them what is going on, interoperate legislation and spread the message that these things are happening,” said OHLA Vice President Molly Toth, a student at Youngstown State University.

House Bill 125, which is also known as the “heartbeat bill,” would impose strict abortion limits in Ohio.

In December, it was put on hold after supporters requested last-minute language changes.

If approved, the bill will ban abortions at the first sign of a heartbeat within a fetus. A heartbeat is typically detectable six to eight weeks into pregnancy.

The bill was passed in the Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives in June, but it was stalled in the Ohio Senate until hearings began in December.

OHLA strongly opposes the bill.

“While I, and other members of OHLA, am supportive of the decision to postpone the bill, I would not be surprised to see it come up again in legislation in the future,” Toth said. “Ideally, it will remain in limbo and not be granted another hearing.”

For Toth and OHLA, postponement is not a permanent solution.

“House Bill 125 is just one of several similar bills aimed at restricting access to a full spectrum of health care for women that have gone through the House and Senate this session,” Toth said. “The bill’s postponement is not a victory.”

According to the Ohio General Assembly, contemporary medical research says that a fetal heartbeat means cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart in the gestational sac.

Daniel Thimons, associate director of the Diocese of Youngstown’s Office of Pro-Life, Marriage and Family Ministry, said the law should protect every citizen with a beating heart.

“At the first sign of a heartbeat, there is scientific and medical evidence that the fetus is a living person,” Thimons said. “If the fetus has its own beating heart, the law should protect it.”

Toth argued that most women don’t learn of their pregnancies until well beyond the 21-day heartbeat precedent set by HB 125.

“It leaves too many women without the ability to know they are even pregnant before it becomes illegal to make any action on it,” Toth said.

She also argued against the bill not including exemptions for fetal anomalies and for women whose pregnancies result from rape or incest.

Thimons said plenty of resources are available for pregnant women.

“There are programs … that women can turn to for housing and financial assistance as well as adoption,” Thimons said. “Abortion is not the only choice.”

Local resources include the Beatitude House and the Pregnancy Help Center.

“It’s a misconception that pro-life advocates only care about the unborn baby and not the mother,” Thimons said.

Sam Rossi, deputy press secretary for state Sen. Thomas Niehaus, said the bill has no real timeline.

“Our members are very thoughtful and deliberate in hearing everyone out and acting responsibly to exercise due diligence in our decision-making,” Rossi said.