An  Open  Letter  from  Ohio  Senate  President  Tom  Niehaus   May  2,  2012  

  Fellow  Pro-­‐Life  Ohioan:   Thank  you  for  your  interest  in  Substitute  House  Bill  125,  the  so-­‐called  Heartbeat  Bill,  and   for  taking  the  time  to  read  this  detailed  response  to  questions  I  have  received  about  the   status  of  the  legislation.    No  other  abortion-­‐related  measure  in  recent  memory  has   generated  such  intense  rhetoric,  and  I  am  compelled  on  behalf  of  the  Senate  majority   caucus  to  set  the  record  straight.   Unfortunately,  the  leaders  of  an  organization  called  Faith2Action  have  made  exaggerated   and  inflammatory  statements  about  the  status  of  Substitute  House  Bill  125  without  offering   a  full  explanation  of  the  debate  that  has  emerged  within  the  pro-­‐life  community.    Their   claim  that  we  “lose  more  than  a  school  bus  full  of  children  every  day”  due  to  a  lack  of   Senate  action  on  the  bill  is  simply  false,  and  I  will  not  continue  to  allow  this  organization  to   question  the  commitment  of  my  colleagues  to  ending  the  scourge  of  abortion.    Ohio  Senate   Republicans  have  done  more  in  the  past  16  months  to  advance  the  protection  of   unborn  children  than  any  previous  General  Assembly  in  our  state’s  history.   Faith2Action  recently  paid  for  a  series  of  advertisements  and  automated  phone  calls   featuring  Dr.  Jack  Willke,  a  longtime  leader  in  the  Right  to  Life  movement.    I  have  known  Dr.   Willke  for  many  years.    He  was  my  pediatrician.    While  I  greatly  respect  the  work  he  has   done  to  advance  the  pro-­‐life  cause,  I  believe  it  is  important  to  note  that  respected  legal   experts  strongly  disagree  with  him  on  this  particular  piece  of  legislation.    You  will  find   some  of  their  concerns  explained  in  this  letter.   I  ask  that  you  carefully  consider  the  information  that  has  brought  us  to  this  point.    First,  by   way  of  background,  the  bill  has  two  primary  objectives:  (1)  requiring  what  is  known  as   “informed  consent,”  where  a  woman  seeking  an  abortion  must  sign  a  form  of   acknowledgement  if  a  fetal  heartbeat  is  detected  at  least  24  hours  in  advance  of  an  abortion   and  (2)  banning  abortions  where  a  fetal  heartbeat  is  detected,  except  in  cases  of  serious   physical  harm  to  the  mother.    



The  Senate  has  held  many  hours  of  hearings  on  the  bill  to  date,  and  a  sharp  disagreement   has  emerged  between  pro-­‐life  allies  over  its  content  and  consequences.    Both  sides  agree   on  two  key  points:   1. The  bill  as  passed  by  the  Ohio  House  of  Representatives  likely  would  be  found   unconstitutional  under  the  current  abortion  precedent  established  by  the  U.S.   Supreme  Court.    In  fact,  in  a  letter  to  me  dated  March  6,  2012,  Dr.  Willke  wrote,   “This  bill,  by  current  judgment,  in  both  District  and  [Appellate]  Courts  is  patently   unconstitutional.”       2. If  the  assumption  above  is  true,  opponents  will  take  immediate  legal  action  upon   passage  of  the  bill,  and  a  federal  court  likely  would  enjoin  it,  preventing  the  new  law   from  becoming  effective.    Such  a  lawsuit  would  take  years  to  work  its  way  through   the  judicial  system  to  the  U.S.  Supreme  Court  (assuming  the  Court  would  even  hear   the  case).       Let  me  be  clear,  no  additional  unborn  babies  would  be  saved  while  the  case  is  held  up  in   court,  so  the  promise  of  “ending  nearly  every  abortion”  is  uncertain  at  best  and  capable  of   creating  a  damaging  legal  precedent  at  worst.       This  is  where  the  disagreement  over  strategy  begins  to  emerge.       Supporters  of  Substitute  House  Bill  125  believe  we  should  pass  the  bill  and  hope  the   Supreme  Court  will  use  it  to  overturn  Roe  v.  Wade.    Dr.  Willke  cites  in  his  letter  to  me  a   mere  “conviction”  that  the  Court’s  swing  vote,  Justice  Anthony  Kennedy,  “is  waiting  for  the   right  bill  to  gut  Roe  v.  Wade,”  despite  a  longstanding  record  of  pro-­‐abortion  decisions.    You   will  see  in  the  testimony  below  that  others  within  the  pro-­‐life  community  have  doubts   about  Dr.  Willke’s  speculation.    The  chairman  of  Ohio  Right  to  Life,  Marshal  Pitchford,   testified  to  an  Ohio  Senate  committee:     “There  is  not  enough  reliable  evidence  to  suggest  that,  at  this  time,  there  are   sufficient  votes  on  the  high  court  to  overturn  Roe  v.  Wade.    The  legal  decisions   suggest  quite  the  opposite.    It  is  not  in  the  interests  of  the  State  of  Ohio  or  the  pro-­‐ life  movement  to  precipitate  litigation  that  could  result  in  yet  another  decision  of   the  Supreme  Court  further  entrenching  [past  abortion  rights  decisions]  Roe  and   Casey  in  our  jurisprudence."       Denise  Mackura,  former  executive  director  of  Ohio  Right  to  Life,  wrote  in  a  recent  letter  to   The  Columbus  Dispatch,  “There  are  currently  only  two  certain  votes  on  the  court  to   overturn  Roe:  Justices  Antonin  Scalia  and  Clarence  Thomas.  Both  Chief  Justice  John  Roberts   and  Justice  Samuel  A.  Alito  described  Roe  as  ‘settled  law’  during  their  confirmation   hearings.  The  other  five  justices  support  Roe.”  



Respected  pro-­‐life  legal  experts,  who  have  spent  years  advancing  strategies  to  overturn   Roe,  told  us  that  the  risk  of  a  bad  ruling  on  Substitute  House  Bill  125  could  have  a   negative  and  unintended  consequence  of  reaffirming  Roe  v.  Wade.    No  pro-­‐life  Ohioan   should  desire  such  an  outcome.    This  speculative  legal  strategy  has  kept  the  Catholic   Conference  of  Ohio  and  even  National  Right  to  Life,  the  nation’s  oldest  and  largest  pro-­‐life   advocacy  group,  from  supporting  the  bill  in  its  current  form.    Consider  the  following   opinions  presented  to  an  Ohio  Senate  committee:   • The  legal  counsel  for  National  Right  to  Life  and  Priests  for  Life,  James  Bopp  Jr.,  who   has  argued  four  cases  before  the  U.S.  Supreme  Court  and  successfully  won  three,   testified  that  “there  is  serious  danger”  in  enacting  the  Heartbeat  bill’s  proposed   abortion  ban  because  it  goes  far  beyond  the  Supreme  Court’s  current  precedent  for   constitutionality.    He  stated,  "The  Supreme  Court's  current  makeup  assures  that  a   declared  federal  constitutional  right  to  abortion  remains  secure  for  the  present.     This  means  that  now  is  not  the  time  to  pass  state  abortion  bans  because  (1)  such   provisions  will  be  quickly  struck  down  by  a  federal  district  court,  (2)  that  decision   will  be  affirmed  by  an  appellate  court,  (3)  the  Supreme  Court  will  not  grant  review   of  the  decision,  and  (4)  the  pro-­‐abortion  attorneys  who  brought  the  legal  challenge   will  collect  statutory  attorneys  fees  from  the  state  that  enacted  the  provision  in  the   amount  of  hundreds  of  thousands  of  dollars.    The  effort  will  have  enriched  the  pro-­‐ abortion  forces  for  no  gain  for  the  pro-­‐life  side.    In  fact,  there  will  be  a  loss  because   there  will  be  yet  another  federal  court  decision  declaring  that  state  law  on  abortion   is  superseded  by  the  federal  constitution.    No  amount  of  stirring  rhetoric  arguing   that  the  states  have  a  duty  to  do  something  to  trigger  reconsideration  of  Roe   changes  the  hard  fact  that  such  an  effort  is  presently  doomed  to  expensive  failure."     Bopp  goes  further  in  his  testimony  to  state  that,  should  the  Supreme  Court  take  up   the  case,  a  negative  ruling  could  open  the  door  to  a  dangerous,  new  precedent   long  advocated  by  Justice  Ruth  Bader  Ginsberg,  which  argues  that  women  should   have  unrestricted  access  to  abortion  procedures  under  the  equal  protection  clause   of  the  Fourteenth  Amendment.    Bopp  argues  that  this  new  legal  justification  for  the   right  to  abortion  would  “jeopardize  all  current  laws  on  abortion,  such  as  laws   requiring  parental  notification  for  minors,  waiting  periods,  specific  informed   consent  information,  and  so  on.”  If  Justice  Ginsberg’s  view  is  adopted,  Bopp  argues,   “States  would  likely  have  to  fund  abortions  that  they  are  not  currently  required  to   fund  in  programs  for  indigent  persons.”     Lee  J.  Strang,  a  pro-­‐life  constitutional  law  professor  and  former  U.S.  appeals  court   clerk,  echoed  Mr.  Bopp’s  testimony  by  arguing  that  there  are  “serious  negative   consequences  if  you  pass  the  bill,”  not  the  least  of  which  is  his  belief  that  the  U.S.   Supreme  Court’s  pro-­‐choice  justices  could  use  the  case  “as  a  vehicle  to  stop  similar  



pro-­‐life  legislation  while  the  Court’s  makeup  remains  the  same.”    A  loss  in  the   Supreme  Court,  he  argued,  “would  stop  the  powerful  momentum  the  pro-­‐life   movement  has  worked  so  hard  to  build.”   Regardless  of  where  you  stand  on  Substitute  House  Bill  125,  these  opinions  cannot  be   taken  lightly.    They  reflect  a  serious  and  strategic  disagreement  among  allies  in  the  fight  to   protect  unborn  life.    Ohio  is  not  alone  in  this  debate.    Just  days  ago  in  Mississippi  a  Senate   committee  refused  to  move  a  similar  abortion  ban,  citing  concerns  about  its   constitutionality.    Committee  Chairman  Hob  Bryan,  pointing  to  his  100  percent  pro-­‐life   voting  record,  said  it  would  “serve  us  no  purpose”  to  pass  the  bill  because  “someone  would   go  to  court  and  get  an  injunction,  and  it  would  never  take  effect.”       Make  no  mistake.    Our  majority  caucus  in  the  Ohio  Senate  is  staunchly  pro-­‐life.    Seven   major  legislative  measures  have  gone  through  our  chamber  since  last  year  (again,  more   than  any  previous  General  Assembly  in  state  history),  including  a  ban  on  late-­‐term   abortion,  strengthening  parental  consent  laws,  a  ban  on  abortions  performed  in  taxpayer-­‐ funded  facilities,  a  ban  on  taxpayer-­‐funded  insurance  coverage  of  non-­‐therapeutic   abortions  for  local  government  employees  and  a  bill  excluding  abortion  coverage  from  the   mandates  of  the  new  federal  health  care  law  (“ObamaCare”).       My  colleagues  and  I  want  to  ensure  that  every  action  we  take  advances  –  not  erodes  –  the   protection  of  innocent  life.    That  is  why  I  have  repeatedly  asked  the  pro-­‐life  community  to   come  together  and  explore  a  compromise  on  this  bill.    We  will  take  every  responsible  step   to  advance  the  protection  of  unborn  children,  but  in  doing  so  we  must  consider  the   concerns  and  experienced  legal  guidance  of  our  respected  pro-­‐life  allies.    I  remain  hopeful   that  those  who  disagree  on  a  strategy  –  but  who  share  a  common  desire  to  end  abortion  –   can  find  consensus  on  this  bill.           In  conclusion,  I  am  grateful  for  the  efforts  of  our  allies  in  the  pro-­‐life  movement  who  are   strategically  working  every  day  to  end  one  of  our  nation’s  greatest  tragedies.    You  have  a   steadfast  partner  in  the  23  Republican  members  of  the  Ohio  Senate.   Sincerely,  

  Thomas  E.  Niehaus   President  

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