Anti-abortion forces rally for "heartbeat bill" in Ohio

COLUMBUS Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:20am EDT

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COLUMBUS (Reuters) - Anti-abortion activists plan a rally at the Ohio statehouse on Tuesday to support passage of what would be the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country -- a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The bill, which passed the Ohio House in June, has not yet been assigned a committee in the Ohio Senate, which starts its fall session Tuesday.

If enacted, the law would be a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which upheld a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at 22-24 weeks. A heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks.

The Ohio House voted 54-43 for the ban, along party lines, with most Republicans voting in favor. The Senate also is dominated by Republicans, but passage is not certain.

Ohio Right to Life on its web site calls the bill "the right idea at the wrong time," expressing concerns that the Supreme Court would overturn it, creating another precedent-setting decision that will have to be overcome in the future.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said it doesn't sound like supporters have the votes lined up for the bill yet.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is "completely" opposed to the bill, Copeland said. "It would outlaw abortion at a point in pregnancy when many women don't yet realize they're pregnant," said Copeland. She said NARAL planned a counter-demonstration Tuesday.

Republican Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder said at the time of the house passage that he knew this bill will face a court challenge.

"We're writing bills for courts," he said. The bill does not contain exceptions for rape, incest or the life and health of the mother.

Several Republican presidential candidates have expressed support for the bill, including Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to Faith2Action, an anti-abortion group which is organizing the rally.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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