Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action returned to Ohio to try to enact the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law, the Heartbeat Bill, but it appears that she only managed to divide her fellow abortion rights opponents and anger Republican leaders. In fact, relations between her and the state’s GOP officials have gotten so bad that she is now calling for Republicans in the State Senate to vote out their own leader.
The Heartbeat Bill, which criminalizes abortion in the vast majority of cases, had passed the Ohio State House but was held up in the State Senate. Because the bill is undoubtedly unconstitutional, the state’s largest anti-choice group came out against it, causing local chapters to defect and join a new group Porter had set up to back the bill.
Porter announced endorsements from Republican presidential candidates; brought in Religious Right activists for prayer rallies; wrote an anti-choice version of “99 Red Balloons”; ran ads on TV and in the sky; sent out advertisements attacking “RINO” Republicans; organized prayer warriors and children with teddy bears; claimed that the bill’s passage will allow God to bless America; and had a fetus “testify” at a hearing. One supporter in the State House said the bill was needed so the U.S. can compete with all the smart kids in China – he was later arrested for drunk driving.
In September, Porter pointed to a “miraculous” breakthrough and said that the Senate would consider a new version of the legislation just before the election. But the vote never came and after Ohio went blue and a majority of voters identified themselves as pro-choice, the Republican head of the State Senate Tom Niehaus weighed putting the bill up to a vote until declaring it dead. Porter, in turn, demanded that a Republican senator buck the party leadership and force a vote:
Despite what you have heard about outgoing President Tom Niehaus refusing to honor his word and bring the Heartbeat Bill to the floor for a vote, the Decision of whether the Heartbeat Bill lives or dies is in the hands of the REPUBLICAN MAJORITY–not Tom Niehaus!
If just ONE SENATOR will circulate a discharge petition, and 16 Republican Senators, who ran as pro-lifers, will sign it–the Heartbeat bill will come to the floor for a vote BEFORE Dec. 31, 2012–otherwise it will die!
Today, however, that plan failed as well as a procedural move made it impossible to use a discharge petition, and Niehaus put the blame squarely on Porter for her “over the line” tactics:
Faith2Action, the lead group pushing for the heartbeat bill, has called for GOP senators to sign a discharge petition — a rarely used procedure in which, if a majority of a chamber’s members sign on, a bill can be forced out of committee and onto the floor for a vote. But moving the bill to the Rules Committee effectively blocks that effort because a bill must be in a committee for at least 30 days before a discharge petition can be used. The Senate will adjourn for the year before 30 days pass.
“This bill saw some of the most-intense lobbying efforts in recent memory. That’s fine,” Niehaus said. “But threatening, in my mind, goes over the line. For a small faction of the pro-life community to target the most pro-life group of senators in recent memory was, to me, outrageous.” Niehaus wouldn’t elaborate on specifics of the “threatening” lobbying tactics.
Porter, of course, now wants the GOP caucus to remove Niehaus as GOP leader so they can vote on her bill before it is too late!
ACT TODAY TO SAVE THE HEARTBEAT BILL
It was bad enough when outgoing Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus broke his promise to give us a floor vote after the November election. Then he put out a press release calling us “bullies” because we have phoned, emailed, and visited our Senators. Now he has pulled another vindictive move to halt the Heartbeat Bill! Niehaus moved the bill to a different committee, to prevent a “Discharge Petition” from being implemented. A Discharge Petition would have forced a floor vote before the bill dies on December 31.
But the other 22 Senate Republicans still have the power to force a floor vote before the Heartbeat Bill dies. They can remove Senator Niehaus from leadership, and install President-elect Keith Faber now (rather than waiting until January when Faber, a Heartbeat Bill supporter, is scheduled to become Senate President).
Assuming that effort fails, Porter and her allies will try to push the bill through the legislature next term:
The bill’s death likely would be only temporary. The House passed the bill this session, and Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, is returning as speaker. Niehaus is term-limited at the end of the year and will be replaced by Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, a strong backer of the bill.
Lori Viars, vice president of Warren County Right to Life who has also worked to pass the bill, took issue with Niehaus’ characterization of their lobbying tactics. “It’s pretty arrogant to call a group of pro-life women ‘bullies’ because we’re phoning, emailing, and visiting our senators. Don’t they work for us?”