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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday it plans to sue if Ohio state lawmakers pass either of two contentious anti-abortion bills now being considered.
One of the bills, which already has been passed by the Ohio House, would ban abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. If it became law, this would be the toughest restriction on abortions in the nation.
The other bill involves the new health care exchanges now being set up as part of the federal health care reform plan. Under this proposed law, Ohioans would not be allowed to purchase coverage for abortion.
Both bills will be taken up by Ohio lawmakers this week, with the heartbeat bill coming before a Senate committee as early as Wednesday. The insurance bill has passed one committee and could go before the full Senate, also possibly Wednesday.
Gary Daniels of the ACLU of Ohio says both bills are unconstitutional. He also said the freedom to choose health care options was at the heart of the vote for an amendment to the state's constitution that voters approved by nearly a two thirds majority vote last month.
"I find it ironic with the passage of Issue 3, some people, some analysts at least, saw that as, here in Ohio, people are sending a clear message that they want government out of the business of health care," said Daniels.
The vote was promoted by Ohio Republicans as a strike against the health care law signed by President Barack Obama.
Daniels said it's "ironic" that some of the same supporters of Issue 3 "are turning around saying you can't purchase, even with your own money, certain types of health insurance."
Mike Gonadakis, the head of Ohio Right to Life, said the ACLU argument has it wrong.
"The federal health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare specifically says that individual states can opt out of abortion coverage in the state exchange," Gonadakis said.
He noted if the current legislation passes, Ohio will be the 13th state to opt out of abortion coverage in the federal exchanges. Gonadakis says if it comes down to a discrepancy between the federal law and state law, the federal law prevails.
Gonadakis himself has been under fire from local anti-abortion groups because the state organization has not endorsed passage of the heartbeat bill. Some local agencies have withdrawn their membership in the umbrella state group over that issue.
Writing and reporting by Jo Ingles; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan