Ohio lawmakers pass ‘heartbeat,’ abortion bill

State News

Lawmakers in the Ohio House approved the “heartbeat bill” today that would ban abortions in Ohio after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The bill was passed by a vote of 58 to 35. The legislation heads to the Ohio Senate.

Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar bill in December 2016, siding with opponents who contend it is unconstitutional.

Enough support for a veto override is being sought.

Kasich also said he would veto any “stand your ground” gun legislation that eliminates a requirement to retreat in confrontations before using deadly force.

However, the GOP-controlled House voted 64-26 Wednesday in favor of the “stand your ground” bill, a supermajority large enough to override Kasich’s expected veto.

Backers say the bill puts Ohio in line with about 35 other states. The legislation goes next to the Senate.

If it becomes law, it would change the rules for self-defense. Under current law, if someone shoots to kill, they must prove the shooting was justified. Under ‘stand your ground’, the burden shifts to the prosecution to try to prove the shooting was not justified.

The debate in the House Wednesday led to a heated exchange about race.

“What do you do in spaces and places when your presence, literally your face – your face – causes someone to be fearful of you?” said Cleveland Rep. Stephanie Howse on the House floor.

Howse says Ohio prosecutors and the NAACP all oppose ‘Stand Your Ground’ because it disproportionately harms people of color, who are often feared simply because of racial bias. She also says the 32 sponsors of the bill live in districts that are disproportionately white.

“Representative Terry Johnson, 94.9 percent white constituents, 2.4 percent black constituents,” said Howse.

Speaker Ryan Smith gaveled Howse down, saying there are rules against naming lawmakers.

“We’re talking about constituencies and the impact of this legislation and the impact on constituencies,” said Howse, objecting to being gaveled down.

“And I’m asking you to leave the personalities away from it,” replied Speaker Smith.

Smith then cut Howse’s mic, saying, “The lady will take her seat and quit being disruptive.”

After the House voted 64-26 in favor of the legislation, Speaker Smith defended his decision to gavel her down.

“I didn’t gavel her down hard, I just tried to get her attention,” said Smith. “And Frankly, she insinuated that myself and Johnson and LaTourette  are racist, and I find that infuriating.”

“The voices of Ohioans have been shut out,” said Howse. “Silenced for the moment for this important piece of legislation from their side that will have grave consequences.”

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