After falling one vote short of passage last year, its prospects seem better with new governor, legislature.

Christina Hagan spent more than seven years in the Ohio House of Representatives as a prominent advocate for the so-called Heartbeat Bill, a measure that would ban most abortions in the state.

She ended her tenure as a legislator the last week of 2018, one vote short in the Ohio Senate of overriding then-Gov. John Kasich's veto of the bill she sponsored for three sessions.

"This was the only legislation that I carried that had a life-or-death price tag," Hagan said in a recent interview.

Despite that loss and her departure from the legislature, the prospects for the Heartbeat Bill look good in the new session of the Ohio General Assembly, still firmly in control of anti-abortion Republicans.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took office Jan. 14, and he has pledged to sign the bill. State Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, who was Hagan's joint sponsor of the bill, is expected to reintroduce it soon with state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown. Hood represented the Alliance area in the House in the late 1990s.

Neither DeWine's press spokesman nor Hood could be reached for comment.

"There's no reason for it not to move quickly, other than the obvious reason but the (state) budget," said Hagan, who wants to remain an advocate for the bill from the sidelines. She believes the Heartbeat Bill could be law by April.

Controversial legislation

The Heartbeat Bill would have banned the abortion of a human fetus if its heartbeat could be detected. Anyone performing such an abortion would be guilty of a fifth-degree felony, unless a doctor did it to save the life of the mother or to "prevent a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman." The bill did not provide any exceptions for rape or incest.

Rabbi Jon Adland of Temple Israel, a member of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio board, calls the bill "one more government intrusion into the personal lives of individuals where these kinds of decisions should be left to the woman and partner."

But Adland concedes his opposition likely has the votes.

"It's not looking good. All I can do is work hard to convince people that this is bad law. But that's all I could do," he said.

Most Stark County legislators support the legislation.

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, who was in the Ohio House in the last session; Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, who was in the Ohio Senate; and Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, who was in the Ohio House and now represents western Stark County, voted late last month to override Kasich's veto of the Heartbeat Bill. The lone Stark County vote in opposition was cast by Rep. Thomas West, D-Canton. He could not be reached for comment.

"A fetal heartbeat, in my opinion, is a sign of life and accordingly should not be aborted," Schuring wrote in a text message.

Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township, who succeeded Hagan as representative Jan. 7, said he has added his name as a co-sponsor to the Heartbeat Bill.

"I support life 100 percent from conception to natural death," Stoltzfus said.

New speaker

State Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was elected this month as Ohio House speaker. He was a co-sponsor of the Heartbeat Bill and voted for the legislation in November and to override Kasich's veto.

Householder's office said in a statement, "Speaker Householder feels strongly about protecting unborn children with fetal heartbeats. The Speaker stands firm in his belief that every unborn child with a heartbeat deserves this protection."

Jon Fortney, a spokesman for the Ohio Senate Republican Caucus, said Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, still supports the bill.

It's not clear which committees will be assigned to hold hearings on the bill or the timeline.

Janet Porter, president of the North Royalton-based anti-abortion group Faith 2 Action, said the bill's chances "will depend on whether Speaker Householder will keep his pro-life pledge. ... One of the concerns is whether they will weaken the bill and amend it."

Eight years

Since 2011, when Hagan, a Republican from Marlboro Township, was appointed as a state representative, she has seen the Heartbeat Bill as a means to undo the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which found women had a constitutional right to get an abortion under many circumstances.

Porter said while she supported a ban on abortions of a fetus or embryo after conception, she proposed the Heartbeat Bill in 2010 as the best law to survive court scrutiny because many societies view a beating heart as the beginning of human life.

The bill lacked Senate support in 2012. In late 2016, it cleared the Senate, and Kasich vetoed it, citing the cost to the state of a likely legal challenge to defend a law he believed the courts would strike down.

Then Hagan reintroduced the Heartbeat Bill in 2017 with Hood. In the meantime, Hagan's bid for the 16th District Congressional seat fizzled in the primary against eventual winner Anthony Gonzalez. After conservative Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October, the Ohio House and Senate approved the bill again in the 2018 lame-duck session.

But Kasich again vetoed the bill. He did, however, sign into law other restrictions on abortion later in a woman's pregnancy.

In a dramatic post-Christmas vote Dec. 27, 61 of 99 representatives in the House voted to override Kasich's veto, one more than necessary. But Hagan and Heartbeat supporters also needed 20 out of 33 senators to vote for the override.

Hagan said senators told her they didn't have the votes. She said she pleaded with Obhof to hold the vote anyway.

Nineteen senators, including Oelslager and Frank LaRose, who represented portions of western Stark County, voted for the override. But to her surprise, then-Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, who had voted for the Heartbeat Bill, voted against an override, as Hagan stood in the Senate chamber with one of her babies in her arms.

"We garnered the vote by the grace of God in the House of Representatives," Hagan said, her voice breaking. "And to think that violent act and life-ending procedure would have to happen every day here on out until the next governor is able to sign a bill because of one person's failed vote is truly devastating."

Beagle, now a senior director of policy and program administration for the state treasurer's office, could not be reached for comment.

"This bill will become law within months of my departure. I feel I played the role that God intended me to play," Hagan said, adding it has inspired anti-abortion advocates across the country. "I don't think in any way that I've failed. I've encouraged other people and stand true for life, and that's meaningful."

Reach Robert 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @rwangREP