Ohio Bill Splits Anti-Abortion Forces on Legal Tactics
A widening and emotional rift over legal tactics has split the anti-abortion movement, with its longtime leaders facing a Tea Party-like insurrection from many grass-roots activists who are impatient with the pace of change.
For decades, established anti-abortion leaders like National Right to Life and Catholic bishops have pushed for gradually chipping away at the edges of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, with state laws to impose limits on late-term abortions, to require women to view sonograms or to prohibit insurance coverage for the procedure.
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.