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Q&A: Ohio lawmaker pushes ahead with personhood bill in lameduck session

Republican State Rep. Gary Click of Fremont, at the Fremont Public Library. Click is sponsor of House Bill 704, a one-page piece of legislation requiring the state to recognize the personhood of a fertilized human egg and protect its constitutional rights.
Amy Eddings
Ideastream Public Media
State Rep. Gary Click (R - Vickery) at the Fremont Public Library. Click is sponsor of House Bill 704, a one-page piece of legislation requiring the state to recognize the personhood of a fertilized human egg and protect its constitutional rights.

Members of the Ohio General Assembly return to the Statehouse today to begin their post-election lame duck session. There are several bills regarding abortion that are awaiting action from the Republican-dominated legislature. They include one that would ban abortion from conception and one granting personhood to a fertilized egg. State Rep. Gary Click (R - Vickery) is the sponsor of the personhood bill. Ideastream Public Media's Amy Eddings asked Click to describe it and address how it might affect fertility treatments and pregnant Ohioans seeking legal abortions out-of-state.

So, H.B. 704 is the Personhood Act. It's very short, sweet and to the point. And it just says that the state of Ohio shall recognize the personhood of the unborn human from the moment of conception and protect the constitutional rights thereof. And then it also adds a caveat, so that there are no misunderstandings, that nothing in this section should be interpreted or construed to endanger the life of the mother.

What do you hope this this would accomplish?

Really, what I wanted, what I'm trying to do with this is to recalibrate the conversation because... and that's why it's so short. And I think that's actually one reason why it's caught so much attention is because it is short and sweet and to the point. And I've often said that the beauty of this bill is in its brevity. Now, the reality of it is, I think almost everyone knows there's no way that this is going to pass as is. But what it does is it recalibrates the conversation, whether you're pro-life or whether you're pro-choice. I want to steer the conversation to the most important part of that conversation, which is when does life begin? Because all other considerations should follow that.

I can see people maybe drawing a distinction between when life begins and when personhood begins. So can you tell me what the distinction is for you? What does personhood mean? What is a person, to you?

A living human being. I don't know how you draw a distinction between personhood and life. That's what I'm sitting here trying to figure out. A living person is a person. And if you go back to the the Declaration of Independence, our original law, it's in there. That person has certain rights and that we should safeguard those rights. And only in extreme circumstances should or could those rights be violated.

So, if life starts at conception, what do you do about in vitro fertilization and all of those persons in labs across Ohio?

I have friends who have children through IVF and there are plenty, plenty of pro-life people who have used IVF. But before they did it, they looked at the ethics, their own morals and their own ethics to say, how can we do this ethically? It would not eliminate IVF, I can tell you that right now, but it might say, okay, you know, these things like selective reduction where we implant multiple and then we kill the ones we don't like, that might have to change.

How would this affect pregnant Ohio women who travel across state lines to get an abortion?

I don't know that it would.

Why wouldn't it? They're taking a person across state lines to have an abortion.

So, what what does this bill say about that?

It doesn't say anything about it.

Thank you very much.

So, that would leave it up to prosecutorial discretion?

Well, you know, you can't prosecute unless you have a law. You can't prosecute somebody for something that's not in the law.

If it's a person, you're taking a person across state lines in the same way that maybe there's laws against taking minors across state lines.

That's, I guess that's an interesting question.

This would be, this person would constitute a minor.

Yeah, that's interesting. I don't know what would happen. If it would protect their life, I'd be okay with it, but that would be stuff we'd have to work out. What are we doing? We're trying to recalibrate the conversation, and what we really want to happen is for people to stop and think about this. What am I doing before I do it? Do I just listen? Because so many times, women, the baby is dismissed. Young ladies, they're told it's not a baby. It's just a clump of cells. It's just a mass of tissue. It's not a real person. And what I want them to do is to think about that before they go that far. And I want our lawmakers to think about that. And I want us to have laws that are just and that protect life. Because once we dismiss life, we've lost everything.

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