Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Heartbeat Bill

I guess my beliefs are somewhat mixed. The Heartbeat Bill being considered in Ohio does not exclude pregnancies due to rape or incest. I believe a woman has a choice to engage in sexual relations or not, and knows full well the possible consequences. In the case of rape or incest, she has no choice before the fact, but afterward should be given the choice to abort or not to abort.

But now many activists and evangelical Christian groups are pressing for an all-out legal assault on Roe. v. Wade in the hope — others call it a reckless dream — that the Supreme Court is ready to consider a radical change in the ruling.

The rift widened last month over a so-called personhood amendment in Mississippi that would have barred virtually all abortions by giving legal rights to embryos. It was voted down but is still being pursued in several states.

Now, in Ohio, a bill before the state legislature that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, usually six to eight weeks into pregnancy, is the latest effort by activists to force a legal showdown. The so-called heartbeat bill is tearing apart the state’s powerful anti-abortion forces.

Ohio Right to Life, which has been the premier lobby, and the state Catholic conference have refused to support the measure, arguing that the court is not ready for such a radical step and that it could cause a legal setback. But the idea has stirred the passions of some traditional leaders, even winning the endorsement of Dr. John C. Willke of Cincinnati, the former president of National Right to Life and one of the founders of the modern anti-abortion movement.

“I was Mr. Incremental,” Dr. Willke, 87, said of his career promoting the more modest restrictions. “But after nearly 40 years of abortion on demand, it’s time to take a bold step forward.”

Dr. Willke, who in 1971 created what became Ohio Right to Life, called his onetime organization out of touch with the “unrestrained enthusiasm” that the heartbeat bill has unleashed and that he said is emerging in many other states.

Mark S. Gietzen, director of the Kansas Coalition for Life, called the bill “the most exciting thing that has happened in the pro-life movement since Roe v. Wade,” adding that a heartbeat bill modeled on Ohio’s would be introduced when the Kansas Legislature convenes in January.

Conservative evangelical groups like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association have endorsed both the personhood and heartbeat approaches. Matthew D. Staver, dean of the law school at Liberty University, founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, said that National Right to Life had “lost its legitimacy” and was “on the wrong side of advancing human life protections.”

Michael Gonidakis, the executive director of Ohio Right to Life, called the internal split “a difference over tactics.” He noted that anti-abortion forces have won several important legislative victories in the state this year and that a large majority of local chapters remained on board. “We’ve tried to shine light on the unintended consequences of the heartbeat bill,” he said. “This division is unfortunate because it takes us off message and does not help one mother or protect one baby.”

But feelings are running high in the departing chapters.

“We’ve had 39 years of talk and regulation, it’s time to WIN this war and actually PROTECT babies with beating hearts,” said Julie Doehner, president of the Geauga County chapter of Ohio Right to Life, in a news release on Nov. 28 announcing that the county was shifting its allegiance to the new group that endorsed the heartbeat bill.

“If the choice is between unity and life,” she said, “we choose life.”

Read full NYTimes article here.

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