The President of Ohio’s Senate has taken unusual steps to make sure the heartbeat abortion bill does not come up for a vote by his members during the lame duck session. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports a rarely used procedure has been employed to keep the bill sidetracked in a senate committee.
When Senate President Tom Neihaus said earlier this week that the senate would not be voting on the heartbeat abortion bill during the lame duck session, backers of that legislation threatened to use an unusual tactic known as a discharge petition to have the bill brought on the senate floor for a vote without the blessing of leadership. Now, in this latest salvo, Niehaus has removed two leaders of a Senate committee then took a vote to refer the legislation that would ban abortion at the point a fetal heartbeat can be heard into that committee.
NIEHAUS:“The effect of this move is the bill now comes in to the Rules and Reference Committee, and a discharge petition cannot be issued on a bill until it’s been in that committee at least 30 days. Well, today is Nov. 29. That means the earliest that any discharge petition can be issued is Dec. 29. I don’t expect to be here on Dec. 29. So in my opinion, it is effectively said that we are not going to take this bill up in the 129th General Assembly.”
Niehaus says he’s tired of his members being bullied by backers of the heartbeat bill.
NIEHAUS: “I’m all for people advocating for their position and being passionate about their position -- but threatening, in my mind, goes over the line. And we saw tactics that I did not appreciate and my members did not appreciate. And for a small faction of the pro-life community to target the most pro-life group of senators in recent memory was, to me, outrageous.”
Niehaus says he’s talked with the bill’s backers in the past and outlined conditions that must be met for the bill to move forward. And one of those conditions hinged on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney being elected. That didn’t happen so Niehaus says it’s not prudent to move forward with a bill that he says is unconstitutional.
Niehaus: "The reelection of President Obama signaled that if there are going to be new justices appointed to the Supreme Court, they will tend to be less favorable to the so-called heartbeat bill. So the risk became do you send a bill to the U.S. Supreme Court that has the potential to undermine all of the good work that the right-to-life community has done over the previous decades?”
Heartbeat Bill Backer Janet Folger Porter answers that concern this way.
FOLGER PORTER: “The constitutionality is not the issue. We’ve gone through that over and over and over. And, I'll tell you, in the bill there is a severability section. An expressly written portion of the bill that says will not affect any other Ohio legislation, period. So that’s not the issue.”
Folger Porter believes the issue is Niehaus has a personal vendetta against her.
FOLGER PORTER: “If you don’t like something I may have done, all I ask is, don’t take it out on babies. I just would have thought they were bigger than that. I would have thought the outgoing president was bigger than that, than to punish babies for any personal offense against me.”
Folger Porter says her supporters have not bullied Ohio senators with their numerous public attempts to get the bill passed. And she says she’s not giving up the fight.
FOLGER PORTER: “I’m going to quit working on House Bill 125 on Dec. 31. And if we have to go into next session, well then it will have a different number...It'll probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of Senate Bill 1 or 2. But we're going to see babies with beating hearts protected. But we are going to keep knocking on the door until even an unrighteous legislator opens it up and does what we ask.”