It seems like the Republican Party made a secret promise to constituents to add 50% more nuts to the 2012 election, and now their commitment to being more reckless than ever is affecting the anti-abortion movement (which really didn't need any help in that department). While traditionally anti-choicers have been committed to slowly chiseling away at abortion rights, lately some in the movement have become impatient with these tactics, even though they might actually work.
Anti-abortion groups are already splitting over personhood amendments similar to the one defeated in Mississippi recently, and now the battle over Ohio's "heartbeat bill" is pushing them even further apart. The New York Times reports that established groups like National Right to Life and Catholic bishops are facing a "Tea Party like insurrection" from evangelical Christian groups and other activists. Ohio's legislature has been debating a bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. (Usually that's around six to eight weeks after conception, but it could be just 18 days.) Ohio Right to Life and the state Catholic conference oppose the bill, but more radical groups are determined to see it pass. In the past two weeks six county chapters have withdrawn from Ohio Right to Life over its refusal to get behind the measure.
The new group Ohio ProLife Action has absorbed the renegade chapter. It's president, Linda J. Theis, says:
"Step-by-step measures haven't stopped the killing ... It's hard to be against a bill that says that once a baby's heart is beating, you shouldn't take his life."
Of course, while pro-choicers believe we shouldn't limit women's reproductive options based on which organ shapes we eat candy out of on Valentine's Day, that isn't what's troubling older anti-abortion groups. They'd be happy to see the procedure banned, but recognize that the heartbeat bill is a clear violation of Roe v. Wade, which established the viability standard.
Supporters of the heartbeat bill know it will immediately be challenged in court, but the think the Supreme Court just needs an opportunity to strike down Roe v. Wade. They're banking on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the probable swing vote, siding with them. Though, the relatively reasonable people among their ranks know that it's unlikely the Supreme Court would take the case, and if it did, there's a good chance the court would reaffirm Roe v. Wade.
In the short term, it looks like proponents of the heartbeat bill will win out. It's currently before the largely Republican Ohio Senate, and Republican Gov. John R. Kasich will probably sign it. The law is expected to cut abortions in the state by 80 to 90 percent and would only allow exceptions when the mother's life is in danger, not in cases of rape and incest. Similar heartbeat bills are in the works in more than 10 other states, including Kansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arizona. The legislation should face less opposition from the general public than personhood measures, since this arbitrary cutoff on abortions doesn't involve taking away birth control too.
The one satisfying thing to come out of this is that some anti-choicers are getting a taste of their own obnoxious tactics. Julie Doehner, president of one of the defecting chapters of Ohio Right to Life, says, "We've had 39 years of talk and regulation, it's time to WIN this war and actually PROTECT babies with beating hearts ... If the choice is between unity and life, we choose life." Here's a tip to Ohio Right to Life: No matter what word you put in that sentence, they'll "choose life." Much like the kid who continually brings rock to a rock, paper, scissor showdown, that may be their downfall. Their insistance on pushing the anti-abortion legislation they want even though it's a tactical mistake may wind up strengthening women's reproductive rights in the long run.
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