By Jack Minor
A key pro-life leader says that for the first time in many years he has hope he may see the end of abortion before he dies – and it’s at least partly because of a bill in Ohio that would outlaw the procedure.
However, he’s calling on members of the pro-life community to rise up and demand action on the plan.
Many states have proposed “personhood” measures that would define an unborn child as a person from the moment of conception and afford them the protections and rights of all citizens. Those have not yet reached the point of success.
But Ohio’s bill right now is making the state ground zero in the fight with abortion providers over the lives of the unborn.
The proposal would prohibit abortions after the child’s heartbeat is detected, except for certain instances in which the physical health of the mother is threatened.
While the bill has drawn the usual critics, including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, the threat to its passage actually is coming from Republicans who campaigned as pro-life but now want to soften it, according to supporters of the measure.
In December, the leader of the Ohio Senate abruptly suspended hearings on the bill claiming the amendments were making it confusing.
In an attempt to force lawmakers to act on the pro-life values on which they campaigned, the pro-life organization Faith2Action is taking steps to hold the politicians accountable, including running newspaper ads and planning a pro-life rally at the statehouse May 19.
Reporter Shari Lewis of the Columbus Dispatch wrote that Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus had a negative reaction to such pressure. He said the bill is flawed and he won’t pass legislation to essentially outlaw abortion in Ohio.
“Unfortunately, leaders of an organization called Faith2Action have made exaggerated and inflammatory statements … their claim that we ‘lose more than a school bus full of children every day’ due to a lack of Senate action on the bill is simply false, and I will not continue to allow this organization to question the commitment of my colleagues to ending the scourge of abortion,” Niehaus said.
“Ohio Senate Republicans have done more in the past 16 months to advance the protection of unborn children than any previous General Assembly in state’s history.”
Niehaus referred to seven bills, including legislation banning late-term abortion, strengthening parental consent laws and prohibiting abortions in tax-funded facilities.
The pending bill has prompted a tea-party-style movement within the pro-life community. On the one hand, there are the established pro-life organizations such as Ohio Right to Life which have called for a gradual chipping away of abortion rights. However, there are a growing number of individuals within the movement who are fed up with 40 years of gradualism and are instead calling for a full frontal assault on Roe v. Wade.
Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, states, “We will no longer allow babies with beating hearts to be ripped apart by Senate excuses and political games. It’s not enough to regulate abortion, it’s time to end it.”
The organization is running an ad in the Columbus Dispatch that makes it plain that the pro-life community is weary of Republican lawmakers who claim to be pro-life in an attempt to garner pro-life votes but refuse to take meaningful steps to end abortion.
A similar ad last week was accompanied by 50,000 emails to grassroots supporters, 10,000 phone calls, inserts in hundreds of church bulletins and hundreds of calls and emails to Senate offices.
The ad features a poignant open letter from Dr. Jack Wilke, who founded the Right to Life movement 40 years ago.
“I’m 87 years old and once thought that I would not live to see the end of abortion. However, since passage of the heartbeat bill in the Ohio House, I have renewed hope,” he said.
Wilke admits that at one time he was one of those who believe in the gradual approach.
“I was Mr. Incremental,” he said. “But after nearly 40 years of abortion on demand, it’s time to take a bold step forward.”
Not mincing words, Wilke makes it plain that this time around, it is not the pro-abortion Democrats who are obstructing the bill, rather it is the Republican senators who ran on a pro-life platform but are now refusing to act on it.
“After 40 years in the wilderness, we are a Senate vote away from the promised land of protecting babies whose heartbeats can be heard,” he said.
In the letter to state senators, Wilke says, “Talk is cheap. And abortion regulation is woefully inadequate. Because they told us they would end abortion, we sacrificially wrote checks, tiresomely stuffed envelopes, made calls, knock on doors, distributed ballot cards.”
He said pro-life voters did not support pro-life politicians “to regulate abortion but to end it. Ohio Senate Republicans can no longer call themselves ‘pro-life’ while refusing to pass the fully protective Heartbeat Bill.”
Porter said many pro-lifers are tired of halfhearted attempts by legislators who appear to want to have it both ways on the pro-life issue.
“We’ve answered every objection. We’ve jumped through every hoop. We’ve shown them more support than for any bill in America. It’s time for Senate leadership to quit hiding behind empty excuses and bring the fully protective Heartbeat Bill to a floor vote or admit the pro-life platforms they ran on were a charade,” she said.
While the bill would enact the strictest abortion prohibitions in the nation, there is some opposition among pro-lifers who believe it does not go far enough. They reason that by prohibiting abortions several weeks into pregnancy when a heartbeat is detected, it will weaken the ultimate goal of protecting all of the unborn.
But Porter said the bill is good overall.
“If we can’t carry out every child and rescue every child just yet, we can certainly carry out most of them into protection with the Heartbeat Bill,” she said.
She said with the bill, the pro-life community has never been this close to outlawing abortion.
“The Senate needs to act,” Porter said. “The Heartbeat Bill is on the two-yard line, we’re fourth and goal right now. And what we’ve got to do is carry this bill over the line, over the end zone, for the victory.”
Porter also rejects the argument of critics who say a defeat could set back the pro-life movement if the case were to reach the Supreme Court and receive an unfavorable ruling.
“After 40 years of fighting this battle, [the right-to-life movement has] this defeatist mentality,” Porter said. “What we’re dealing with is some folks who say, ‘We better not try because we might fail.'”
Wilke said the time for patience has passed.