COLUMBUS: Abortion providers in Ohio would have to inform pregnant women in writing about the presence of a fetal heartbeat before the procedure under a last-minute change slipped into the state budget Tuesday evening.
The amendment added by a Republican-dominated, six-member legislative committee also would ban doctors from purposefully performing or inducing an abortion on a pregnant woman before determining the presence of a detectable fetal heartbeat unless there is a medical emergency. It would also create criminal penalties for violating the “informed consent” rules.
The change was among dozens of revisions to the budget expected to be voted late Tuesday by the conference committee, as a deadline drew closer to finish the $61.7 billion, two-year spending plan.
State lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to pass the bill. Each chamber of the legislature still has to sign off on the measure, which was expected to come Thursday.
The abortion restrictions were added over the objections of the two Democrats on the committee, who cited a lack of hearings on the proposal.
State Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, accused the Republican majority of “being obsessed with abortion.”
Other reworked provisions of the budget ranged from casino rules to education funding.
In education, some money that had been set aside to help train young readers in grades K-3 would be re-directed to poor students. An advisory committee also would be created to review awards under the governor’s new Straight A fund, which would deliver grants to school districts for innovation and efficiency measures.
The GOP-dominated panel rejected Democratic attempts to add more money to early childhood education and to get rid of a House-added provision that would send Planned Parenthood to the back of the line for public family-planning money.
Among other changes, state lawmakers dropped a proposal that would have required casinos to keep patron photos for five years.
The casino provision was aimed at making it easier for law enforcement to track and clamp down on money laundering. Instead, the Joint Committee on Gaming and Wagering will study the issue and prepare a report of its findings and recommendations by the end of the year.
The six-member committee has been working to hash out the budget differences between the House and Senate, which passed separate tax proposals that must be reconciled along with other provisions.
Republican leaders released details last week of a tax package meant to be included in the budget.
The plan reduces the statewide income tax rate gradually over three years, beginning with an 8.5 percent tax cut on income earned in 2013 and moving to a 10 percent tax reduction by 2015.
The income tax cut would be paid for in part by an increase in the state sales tax, which would rise from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent.