Anti-abortion advocates in Ohio have recruited some unorthodox lobbyists: Kids and teddy bears. In an effort to pass the "heartbeat bill" — a restrictive state measure that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks — activists sent young children clutching teddy bears into the offices of state senators this month. The bears played audio of a fetal heartbeat while the kids, reported to be around 9 or 10 years old, read a prewritten spiel asking lawmakers to support the bill, which already passed the state House last year. One of the state senators called the tactic "cheap exploitation." Is it — or is this just a provocative way of getting support for a controversial piece of legislation?
This is just plain wrong: It's "shameless" to use children as props, says Marie Diamond at ThinkProgress. Of course, it's not the first time that anti-abortion activists pushing the heartbeat bill have stooped to such "tawdry tactics." It was just last year that they had the sonogram of a 9-week-old fetus "testify" before the state House Health Committee — and the bill subsequently passed the state House.
"Backers of radical anti-abortion bill shamelessly use kids carrying teddy bears to lobby lawmakers"
And it's not winning converts in the state Senate: "I'm not at all supportive of the bill, and I'm not supportive of them sending kids in my office with a teddy bear that mimics a heartbeat, either," state Sen. Shirley Smith (D) tells The Huffington Post. Next time an adult wants to discuss an issue, he ought to come to my office himself. This is "very cheap exploitation of kids," and a big turnoff. "I didn't even want the teddy bear."
"Anti-abortion group sends children with teddy bears to lobby lawmakers"
But similar tactics have worked in the past: Anti-abortion activists have effectively cornered Ohio lawmakers with kids before, says Robin Marty at Care 2. Recently, a television commercial ran in Ohio that showed a busload of kids, with an accompanying voiceover saying that if the heartbeat bill were passed, a bus worth of children would be saved every day. Many credit that spot with firing up Ohio voters to call on their state senators to take action and bring the bill up for a vote in the first place.
"Anti-choice use little kids and teddy bears to rally for heartbeat ban"