Senate Panel Advances 'Heartbeat' Bill; Other Abortion Measures Debated

Legislation to ban abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat has been set for a Wednesday floor vote after clearing a Senate panel with several changes.

In addition to the so-called "heartbeat bill" (SB 23), the Senate Health, Human Services & Medicaid Committee also advanced a resolution urging Congress to pass the "Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act."

The House Health Committee, meanwhile, held its first hearing for a proposal requiring schools to teach about fetal development.

In the Senate panel, the fetal heartbeat detection proposal picked up several amendments through a substitute version before it was reported 8-4, with Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) joining the committee's three Democrats in opposition.

Sponsor Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said the substitute version's changes include language allowing the Department of Health to consult with "independent experts such as" the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Ohio State Medical Association when developing informational materials, rather than just those two groups.

Another change would give doctors more leeway in prescribing contraceptive medications, the sponsor said.

"We don't want anything in this bill to say we're trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies," she said.

Other changes: remove language allowing the State Medical Board to suspend licenses without a hearing; modify language around informed consent; clarify that a fetal heartbeat can be established through standard medical practices; and add language that the state has a "compelling interest in protecting the life of an unborn human individual," Sen. Roegner said.

Another tweak in the substitute version adds Planned Parenthood v. Casey to the list of U.S. Supreme Court cases that might be overruled, the sponsor said. The original language just listed Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) questioned those provisions as "unnecessary language."

Sen. Kunze joined the Democrats in opposing the substitute version.

Democrats offered a handful of amendments, all tabled by majority Republicans, with Sen. Kunze again joining the Democrats in opposition.

The first, offered by Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) would provide an exception in cases of rape or incest.

"One of the reoccurring concerns that I have, of many, with this bill is the fact that there is no exception for a pregnancy being conceived by either rape or incest, which pretty much criminal behavior precedence over the victim," she said. "Women and girls who are victims of rape or incest are forced, by this bill, when they have already been victimized, victimizing them a second time."

Another amendment offered by Sen. Antonio would have provided exceptions in situations in which a woman should not continue with a pregnancy because of her mental health or status on medications to treat their mental health.

A pair of amendments offered by Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) would have allowed hospitals to inform rape victims about emergency contraceptives and provide them if requested, and require mandatory health insurance coverage for maternity services.

"It is our responsibility as legislators to make sure that women have access to basic maternal health needs," she said.

Born Alive Resolution: The Senate committee voted along party lines to report the resolution (SR 41) urging Congress to enact proposed legislation, which would impose penalties on medical providers who don't provide life-saving care for children born alive during attempted abortions. The resolution was reported during its first hearing before the committee.

"We have and will continue to debate the issue of abortion," said Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who sponsored the resolution alongside Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). "Indeed, this committee has heard hours of testimony on the matter over the previous weeks. Surely we can all agree that a newborn infant, a living breathing child, should have claim to the same protections and professional care that are afforded to any child."

Stephanie Ranade Krider, vice president and executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said the Congressional proposal would not restrict or ban abortion, but punishes doctors who refuse to provide life-saving care to born-alive infants who survive failed abortions.

"It seems that this shouldn't be a terribly divisive bill," she said. "Living, breathing human infants deserve the same protection across the board, regardless of the circumstance surrounding their birth."

Sen. Antonio said Ohio law makes failing to provide care for a child born alive after an attempted abortion a felony. At the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a child born alive after an attempted abortion is a citizen, she said.

"One of the things we know is that there's a tenet for medical personnel to do no harm," she said. "With all of these things that have been listed that are protections, that are acknowledgements, why are we looking at this resolution right now? Why is this another step we need to take, when it seems to me… the protections already exist?”

Ms. Krider said it would put explicit protections in law and explicit instructions for the situation.

Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the resolution "has no purpose other than continuing the inflammatory rhetoric against medical providers who provide abortion care."

"For decades at all levels anti-abortion organizations have tried to use the truth to persuade individuals from choosing abortion care, but that did not work," she said. "So instead the movement has transitioned into lies and complete fabrications to smear these medical professionals and the patients they serve."

Sen. Lehner said the resolution is about babies that survive abortions, but that the opponents' testimony focused instead on violence against abortion providers.

"If you had a resolution before this body asking us to condemn the murder of abortion providers, we would vote for it," she said. "In that same spirit, I would ask my colleagues who support abortion rights to say that sometimes we just go too far."

Ms. Miracle said Ohio and U.S. laws already mandate that doctors take care of patients regardless of age.

"This resolution misrepresents what abortion care looks like, and through the misrepresentation of abortion care, we are using inflammatory and violence-inducing rhetoric," she said.

Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) said similar legislation was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.

"Why are we sending a resolution to a law that's already in place?" he asked.

Sen. Lehner said the governor of Virginia said, in a hypothetical, it would be up to the woman to decide whether a baby born alive would receive any health care.

"What someone says is meaningless as long as it's already in the law," Sen. Thomas said. "To come up with a resolution based on what someone else said doesn't make sense."

Education Measure: Sponsor Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) told the House Health Committee the legislation (HB 90) would require the development of instructional programs on the "probable anatomical and physiological child at two-week gestational intervals."

"Schools have the ability to directly influence the lives of students," he said. "Unfortunately, schools do not have the ability to teach about the importance of human life, as the rights of the unborn have been constantly under attack."

Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Hts.) said ODH should focus its efforts on issues such as intimate partner violence, infant mortality and sexually transmitted infections.

"I think that there are opportunities to work with the Ohio Department of Health on things that are increasing in prevalence rather than things that are decreasing in prevalence," she said.

The sponsor told Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) that the legislation is based on a measure that passed in Oklahoma. That bill had other provisions, such as requiring the teaching that life begins at conception, that led to it being struck down in the courts.

"We decided to perhaps take a different approach to this idea," he said.

Gongwer Volume 88, Report 48, Article 1

New Budget Director Sees Federal Tax Law Impacts In Latest State Revenue Data

A drop in state personal income tax revenue last month is likely tied to changes in filing behavior linked to the federal tax law overhaul, according to the Office of Budget and Management.

Overall tax intake in January was $50 million below estimates updated last July, preliminary revenue data show. The culprit was the personal income tax category, which came in $77.35 million, or 7.1%, less than expected but was offset somewhat by overages in other tax categories. (Preliminary Revenue Charts)

“We’ve observed some changes in the way people are making their estimated payments” since the federal tax law changes went into effect, new OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks said.

“That seems to have been apparent in December 2018 and January 2019 estimated payments and until we see the final data that comes in in April we won’t be able to parse out much more detail about that. But it seems there has been possibly some changes in how people are approaching their quarterly estimated payments.”

Given the multitude of changes in the federal tax code, analysts think quarterly filers may be holding off until the April 15 deadline to true up with their total liabilities. Among the changes noted by OBM is the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes.

The budget office said other states are also seeing drops in estimated payments, and Ohio’s total now lags estimates for the fiscal year to date by $160 million. Another potential cause for the underage in PIT is a decline in non-wage income.

Overall, however, state coffers remain on course with estimates with five months left in FY 2019, OBM data show. While the PIT is indeed a drag on total tax receipts – the category is lagging year-to-date expectations by $121.5 million, or 2.2% – a strength in the sales tax and others have tax intake running at $78.2 million, or 0.6%, ahead of schedule for the fiscal year.

Ms. Murnieks couldn’t say whether her predecessor’s year-end revenue surplus projections would hold up at this point, but expressed confidence regarding the state’s ongoing financial situation.

“Overall the tax revenue remains solid,” she said. “We’re still feeling good about the FY ’19 year-end picture…. The size of the fund balance at the end of the year I think something is we’re still looking carefully at.”

“We’re looking at all the data and we’re also in the process of forecasting ’20 and ’21 for Governor (Mike) DeWine’s executive budget,” the director added.

Sales tax receipts, now the main revenue source for Ohio thanks to the prior administration’s tax shifting policies, continue to be a bright spot in the state’s financial picture, with the overage so far this fiscal year more than offsetting the apparent slump in the PIT.

The category came in slightly above estimates for January and stands at $142.6 million, or 2.3%, ahead of OBM’s schedule through seven months of FY 2019.

Of the nearly $13.6 billion in total tax collections this year, sales taxes make up about $6.3 billion and personal income taxes about $5.4 billion, according to budget office totals.

Gongwer Volume 88, Report 26, Article 3

DeWine Tackles Infant Mortality, Home Visitation in First Official News Conference

Gov. Mike DeWine signed his seventh executive order Tuesday to create the Advisory Committee on Home Visitations, a group that will meet over the next few weeks and make recommendations to DeWine ahead of the executive budget on how to fund and expand home visitation programs for at-risk mothers and children.

DeWine signed the order during his first official news conference as governor, which was held at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

The panel, which will include leaders from Ohio’s children’s hospitals, will have an abbreviated timeline within to work, with weekly meetings planned over the next five or six weeks.

Opening the event, Nationwide Children’s Hospital CEO Steve Allen noted that infant mortality has been a problem in Ohio over the last decade and while there has been a slight decline, there remains a stark racial inequality. He said premature births remains one of the leading causes of infant mortality, accounting for a third of those deaths.

Allen said evidence-based home visitation programs are among the most “impactful” strategies. Through those programs providers work with a woman and her family to improve pregnancy outcomes and enhance the first year of a child’s life. The provider, who may be a nurse or a social worker, spends time with the parent, educating and providing guidance to mothers.

DeWine said it is no secret that children’s issues will be a focal point of his administration. He said his advisory panel will focus on ways Ohio can use home visiting to improve outcomes of families and children. The group will then make formal recommendations on state investment in the program and how it can expand. He said he will ask the group to move quickly.

“We would envision this group would include a timetable and chart a pathway to achieve this,” DeWine said.

He said the voluntary programs focus on getting a child off to a good start in their lives. The programs have been shown to improve infant mortality rates, close the achievement gap, and improves parental skills.

He said that Ohio currently only serves about 4 percent of eligible families for these programs, a number he said his administration wants to dramatically increase.

“We want every child to have that good start,” DeWine said. “To think we, by great efforts, are only at 4 percent of eligible families is not where we want to be.”

He added that his administration understands that there will be a cost, and the advisory panel will also be looking at what kind of staffing and personnel will be needed to expand. He said his administration’s goal is to triple the size of the program, but he indicated he would like to see it grow beyond that figure.

Judy Van Ginkle, the president of Every Child Succeeds, a home visitation program based out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, who was named to the advisory panel by DeWine, said the executive order and advisory panel are the first time children in Ohio are being addressed in this way. She said the first 1,000 days of life are the ones that matter most, and if that fundamental piece is not right, a child also misses the most important learning times in brain development and child development.

She said it is important that the advisory panel is linked to children’s hospitals and what they are already doing. She said hospitals bring a stable organization so the programs can grow and thrive.

According to Sandy Oxley, chief of the Bureau of Maternal Child and Family Health at the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), about 4,000 families were served in evidence-based home visiting programs in the last year, although about 100,000 would be eligible under the criteria, which include being under 200 percent of the federal poverty level and having other at-risk factors such as low education levels, being a former foster child, being in the military, being at risk for premature birth, among other factors. The state has invested about $19.6 million in General Revenue Funds in the programs per year, and has leveraged another $8.6 million in federal matching funds.

DeWine’s administration said it was working on the full figures of cost savings the home visiting programs can realize, but DeWine said it is an example of what he talked about in his inauguration speech when he said that investments by his administration may not see immediate results.

In addition to Allen, Ginkle and Oxley, members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Home Visitation will include the following:

– LeeAnne Cornyn, DeWine’s director of Children’s Initiatives, who will chair the panel.

– Carrie Beier, superintendent of the Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

– Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

– Debbie Feldman, CEO of Dayton Children’s Hospital.

– Michael Fisher, CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

– Pat Gabbe, founder of Moms2Be.

– Heather Gibson of REACH for Tomorrow.

– Paula Grieb, associate chief nursing officer of Metro Regions and vice president of patient experience for ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital.

– Kim Hauk, chief policy officer of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

– Alicia Leatherman, director of strategic initiatives at Celebrate One.

– Grace Wakulchik, CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital.

– Jane Whyde, executive director of the Franklin County Family and Children First Council.

GroundWork Ohio, a policy research group focused on quality early learning and development led by former Ohio Sen. Shannon Jones, praised DeWine’s announcement.

“It is clear from Gov. DeWine’s very first actions upon taking the oath of office, that he is absolutely committed to laying the necessary foundation for the healthy development of young children in the state,” said Jones in a statement. “Today’s announcement confirms, yet again, his understanding that we have to follow the evidence and invest early to improve the lifelong success of all Ohio kids.”

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on January 15, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.