On Thursday, John Kasich unveiled his plans for funding public schools. On Monday, the governor puts forward his two-year state budget proposal. Amid all of the activity, he would do well to turn his attention toward the matter of respecting the right of women to make their own decisions about an unplanned pregnancy.
State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann has shared his interest in the Ohio House reviving the “heartbeat bill,” legislation that would all but end abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure has been controversial even among opponents of abortion rights, many worried about its obvious unconstitutionality. The U.S. Supreme Court, in upholding the right to an abortion, has ruled that the right can be limited — as long as the restriction does not place an undue burden on women.
The “heartbeat bill” plainly involves such a prohibited burden. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, or before many women know they are pregnant. In other words, the legislation would leave many without a personal choice to make.
Fortunately, Tom Niehaus, the outgoing Senate president, put the bill aside in the recent lame-duck session, refusing to join the House in passage. His successor, Keith Faber, favors the legislation, making the likelihood strong that the governor eventually will find the bill on his desk.
Might the governor seize the opportunity now to signal his lack of interest in Ohio having such a law on its books? The measure would rate as the country’s most stringent abortion restriction, putting the state front and center as a place where state lawmakers want to tell women how to make a most personal decision.
The case against the “heartbeat bill” goes beyond the constitutional concerns. Niehaus noted that the state has pressing priorities, such as strengthening the economy and creating jobs, that deserve full attention. He also cited the laws already enacted by the Republican majorities at the Statehouse limiting access to abortions.
How much further must Ohio travel, knowing that abortion remains legal?
The governor holds strong views in opposition to abortion. He also sees himself as a player on the national political scene. He likely would benefit from an episode in which he says “no” to those at the extreme of his party, pointing to the restrictions already established, relaying that he won’t go so far. The “heartbeat bill” reflects an eagerness for a fight. Is that what the governor wants? Or better to declare “enough”?