COLUMBUS, Ohio — The leader of the Ohio Senate said Wednesday that he's suspending hearings on a bill that would ban abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat, saying amendments proposed by supporters have created confusion.
Supporters of the bill have handed senators more than 20 proposed amendments, said Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, a New Richmond Republican.
"These eleventh hour revisions only serve to create more uncertainty about a very contentious issue," Niehaus said in a statement.
The so-called heartbeat bill passed the GOP-led Ohio House in June. It's been stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, where initial hearings on the bill began last week.
Niehaus did not specify how much time would be needed to weigh the supporter's revisions. But he said he could not move forward on a bill that "has so far created more confusion than consensus."
The measure would outlaw abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat — sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Should it become law, the bill would impose the nation's most stringent abortion limit.
If the heartbeat bill is enacted, supporters hope to provoke a legal challenge and overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the United States. The ruling upheld a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has said it would fight the heartbeat bill in court.
Questions about whether the bill could withstand a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court have divided those in the state's anti-abortion community, who have had tactical disagreements over how best to quickly limit abortions.
Ohio Right to Life has remained neutral on the bill out of concern the legislation goes too far and that the high court's current justices would strike it down.
Niehaus cited the splintering within the anti-abortion community in his statement.
"We've now heard hours of testimony that indicate a sharp disagreement within the pro-life community over the direction of this bill, and I believe our members need additional time to weigh the arguments," he said.
Asked about possible amendments before Niehaus' statement, anti-abortion activist Janet Folger Porter described them as "technical" adjustments to the bill.
Folger Porter did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Niehaus' statement.