COLUMBUS, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - The governor of Ohio is vetoing the strongest pro-life bill in the United States owing to the influence of Ohio Right to Life. An insider maintains some in the pro-life movement as well as the Catholic bishops were behind the veto.
On December 14, Republican governor John Kasich vetoed House Bill 493 (HB 493) banning abortion after six weeks — the time many believe an unborn baby's heart begins to beat.
In his statement, Kasich claims, "As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio's protections for the sanctity of human life, and I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life." He adds that certain parts of HB 493 are "clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States' current rulings on abortion."
He declares that it is "in the public interest" to veto the bill, alleging, "The State of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and, as the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists' lawyers."
He notes that both North Dakota and Arkansas have passed similar legislation, only to be struck down in the courts. He also adds that any court challenges to HB 493 will invite "additional challenges to Ohio's strong legal protections for unborn life."
Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life, disagrees, calling the veto a "missed opportunity." She told Church Militant, "This was a time when we could have made a difference, we could have ended abortion probably within the next four to five years once this had gone through the courts. But Ohio missed its opportunity and we are very, very disappointed."
Cleveland Right to Life gathered with pro-life organizations in Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo, as well as with most other pro-life organizations in the state, to get the law passed. But the group Ohio Right to Life refused to support the new and supported the veto instead. According to Smith, Ohio Right to Life worked in the background with "the medical lobby" and Ohio's Catholic bishops to kill HB 493.
Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis commented, "Given the current make-up of the United States Supreme Court, Governor Kasich got it right by embracing the strategic incremental approach to ending abortion."
He went on to say, "Ohio Right to Life supports Governor Kasich's decision to bypass the heartbeat legislative approach at this time. While it must have been difficult, the current make-up of a radically pro-abortion Supreme Court required the Governor to exercise great restraint."
Gonidakis justified his position on the basis of the North Dakota and Arkansas heartbeat laws, which "never took effect and saved not one unborn life." He claimed, "Legal scholars believe that asking the Court to entertain a third heartbeat law at this time would cause irreparable harm to the pro-life movement."
Smith responded, "Shame on Governor Kasich and shame on Ohio Right to Life [president] Mike Gonidakis." She continued:
We knew before we put it in that there was going to be a challenge. However, when those bills were defeated ... that was under Obama, with a court that was not friendly. We will be getting at least one new judge if not two new judges on the Supreme Court. This was our opportunity to do this. It would have had to go through the process — it's a slow process — by the time we got this to [the] Supreme Court we would have had the courts the way we needed them.
She told Church Militant the pro-life coalition carefully crafted the law using input from esteemed constitutional lawyers, including Dr. David Forte. She also noted that Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel assured Gov. Kasich any fees incurred by a court challenge would be privately paid for and would not cost the state any money.
Governor Kasich's veto can yet still be overridden — a measure Smith calls "a long shot," but she insisted, "It's not over 'till it's over."
Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, is asking Ohioans to contact members of the Ohio House of Representatives. She notes that "only two switched votes are needed to override Gov. Kasich's veto," since Republicans have the majority.
She admonished the pro-life community, "Until bold legislative strategies are enacted, we are only putting a band aid on a gaping wound."