- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hundreds of pro-life supporters rallied Tuesday as part of a drive to make Ohio the first state in the country to pass a law effectively banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

“This day signals the beginning of the end of abortion on demand,” Janet Folger Porter, president of Faith2Action, told the rally in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

People have seen bumper stickers saying “Abortion stops a beating heart,” she said. “What I want to tell you, though, is when the heartbeat bill becomes law, we’re going to reverse this: And it’s going to mean that ‘a beating heart stops abortion.’ “

The bill, HB125, passed the Ohio House of Representatives in June. It now goes before the state Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans. The chamber started its fall session Tuesday.

The bill would require a doctor to check for a fetal heartbeat and inform the woman. If there is a detectable heartbeat, an abortion would be prohibited unless there was a risk of death or major injury to the woman’s health. Supporters believe the bill would block tens of thousands of abortions, as a fetal heartbeat can be typically heard around the sixth week of pregnancy, and sometimes as soon as three weeks’ gestation.

Republican presidential candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, support the bill, as do many pro-family groups.

Pro-choice groups, however, have denounced the bill and a slew of other efforts at the state level in recent months to restrict abortion, and held their own statehouse rally Tuesday. “We will be a constant reminder to legislators that Ohioans are in no mood for an anti-choice agenda to take over the statehouse,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

NARAL and its allies reject the “heartbeat bill” because they say it would virtually eliminate access to legal abortion in Ohio, and because it does not provide exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or for cases where there are fetal anomalies.

Separately, a group called Personhood Ohio is collecting signatures to put a constitutional amendment before voters in 2012. Supporters believe their amendment would go even further than the heartbeat bill - defining a person as any human being or human organism at every stage of biological development, including fertilization,

The practical effect, backers say, is that the measure would essentially outlaw abortion.