COLUMBUS, Ohio — A proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks' gestation passed the Republican-dominated Ohio Senate on Wednesday, hours after opponents testifying at the Statehouse decried the measure as being too restrictive and based on inaccurate conclusions about when fetuses feel pain.
The Senate voted 23-9 along party lines to pass the bill. It now goes to the Republican-dominated House.
The measure would prohibit abortions after the 20-week mark, the point at which Ohio Right to Life says experts begin to agree a fetus can feel pain.
"The Ohio Senate just approved legislation that will help Ohio catch up to the international community's restrictions on abortion," said Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life.
The bill's opponents challenged the characterization of the "pain-capable" 20-week mark as scientifically unsound during testimony before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee earlier in the day. A representative of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio called the legislation "an unconstitutional attack on abortion access before the point of viability," and others argued that research shows fetuses don't feel pain until later in a pregnancy.
Erika Boothman, of Ohio State University Medical Students for Choice, said the legislation is based on emotion, not science.
"As a future physician, the idea that this Legislature would tie my hands and tell me that I cannot provide care that my patient has decided is best for her and her family is unimaginable," she said. "Medical decisions need to be based on science and patient needs and not the whim of state Legislature."
Several religious leaders also testified against the bill, arguing that the decision-making process about abortions, including the timing, should be left up to the woman involved and not be restricted by the state.
"How does this 20-week ban enhance the physical or mental health of women in the state of Ohio? It doesn't," said the Rev. Dr. George Glazier, an Episcopal minister speaking on behalf of the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
More than a dozen states have enacted some form of such "pain-capable" abortion legislation.