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Proposed bill would confer ‘personhood’ from conception

Gary Click.jfif
Ohio House of Representatives
Newly-elected Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) offers the opening prayer for the first session of the Ohio House of Representatives for the 134th General Assembly on January 4, 2021.

Less than a month after a six-week abortion ban went into effect in Ohio, a new effort has been launched to revive an old idea among anti-abortion activists — fetal personhood.

The bill, HB704, is three sentences long, saying what’s called the "Personhood Act" would protect the constitutional rights of “unborn human individuals” from conception.

"Some other people use some other artificial terms, such as viability and so on and so forth," sponsoring Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), a Baptist pastor, said in an interview. "And that's really been a moving target as science has advanced. But from the moment of conception, that person is a unique individual with their own DNA, and I believe they are deserving of all the rights of personhood."

Click said that doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest.

“I would love to see us go to that place where we protect that person we respect and that we value life from the moment of conception," Click said. "So I would love to see there be no abortions with the exceptions of a time when there is a medical emergency — I would certainly want to save the life of the mother."

The bill states that "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted in any manner that would endanger the life of a mother." But it offers no specifics on how those exceptions would be proven or needed.

The bill has seven conservative Republican co-sponsors — Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Kris Jordan, Susan Manchester, Jena Powell, Craig Riedel, and Reggie Stoltzfus.

Five states have similar laws, which challengers say are constitutionally vague. A law in Arizona was blocked in court on Monday.

A proposed "personhood" amendment to the Ohio constitution was certified in 2011, but never made it the ballot. The Zanesville pastor and family practice doctor behind that movement, Patrick Johnston, moved on to writing and producing survivalist and faith-based books and films.

Ohio placed a ban on abortions at as soon as fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That ban went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24.