Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill Could End Up Challenging Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court and It All Started With One Woman at a Sleepover

Some lawmakers in the Ohio House applaud following their vote while others photograph protesters who unfurled banners reading “This is not a House of Worship” and “This is not a Doctor’s office” following a vote on the Heartbeat Bill at the Ohio Statehouse. (Photo: Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

One woman’s fight against abortion started at a sleepover in Ohio. It could end with a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Ohio lawmakers just passed a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, part of a nationwide crusade to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of abortion rights. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has promised to sign the abortion ban, which is one of the nation’s strictest.

The so-called “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence and is seen as a credible threat to the landmark case Roe v. Wade.

Opponents of the abortion ban say it penalizes doctors for performing procedures protected by the U.S. Supreme Court. In many cases, women do not realize they are pregnant until weeks after these laws would prohibit abortion.

An anti-abortion sleepover

The legislation is the brainchild of Janet Folger Porter, an anti-abortion activist who rose to national prominence in 2017 as the spokeswoman of scandal-plagued Alabama Sen. Roy Moore. 

In November 2010, Porter crafted the heartbeat bill during a sleepover at her Northeast Ohio home with fellow opponents of abortion access, then-chairwoman of the Warren County Republican Party Lori Viars and Linda Theis, a former president of Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group.

Porter, a former legislative director with Ohio Right to Life and current leader of Faith2Action, was frustrated with the slow, incremental approach that other conservatives were taking toward banning abortion. She clashed with her former organization, dividing Republicans into conservatives and arch-conservatives.

“When I started it, there were those who said it was impossible,” Porter told The (Cincinnati) Enquirer this week. “But the state of Ohio motto says ‘with God, all things are possible.'”

From extreme to expedited

The heartbeat bill was considered extreme, rejected by conservative legislators and twice vetoed by GOP Gov. John Kasich.

Porter and other proponents of the bill protested on lawmakers’ lawns and inflated a giant heart-shaped balloon on the Statehouse lawn to demand movement on the proposal. They sent teddy bears that made heartbeat sounds when squeezed to lawmakers’ offices.

They rallied supporters to call and write Republicans who didn’t support the bill and supported their GOP primary challengers. Porter even ran for the legislature herself, challenging Larry Obhof, now president of the Ohio Senate, for his seat.

Eight years later, Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature easily passed the abortion ban, making it one of the first bills to hit DeWine’s desk. Ohio Right to Life, historically cautious of the legislation and its all-but-certain legal challenge, now supports it.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Jessie Balmert