COLUMBUS (AP/WCMH) – Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate and House approved banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions.
The so-called “heartbeat bill” approved Tuesday would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat.
Similar measures elsewhere have faced legal challenges, and detractors in Ohio fear such legislation would lead to a costly fight in the courts. Opponents are predicting it will be found unconstitutional if it becomes law.
Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move would be constitutional.
State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.
Asked if he expects the Ohio proposal to survive a legal challenge, Faber said: “I think it has a better chance than it did before.”
The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger but not in cases of rape or incest, he said.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the move would block access to abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, states were permitted to restrict abortions after viability – the point when the fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving under normal conditions outside the uterus. The ruling offered no legal definition of viability, saying it could range between 24 and 28 weeks into a pregnancy.
President of Faith2Action Janet Porter said they did everything they could to make sure the “heartbeat bill” passed.
“We live in a State who’s motto is with God all things are possible. That’s what just happened today,” she said.
Now, she hopes Gov. Kasich will sign this bill into law.
“I think it’s going to take eternal vigilance for us to make sure that he maintains his pro-life promises…He keeps his pro-life promises and passes the bill that will protect babies who’s heart beats can be heard,” said Porter.
Not soon after the Ohio Senate approved it a protest erupted outside the governor’s mansion, where an event was taking place.
Protesters shouted “Who’s choice? My Choice!” and “Not the church, not the state, women must decide our fate!”
“A 6-week abortion ban will essentially outlaw abortion all together,” said exec. Dir. of Women Have Options Stephanie Craddock Sherwood.
Pro-choice supporters argue abortion before viability is a constitutional right.
“This is a horrible attack on Ohio women, a very dangerous proposal,” said communications manager of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Gabriel Mann. “This blocks access to a safe and legal abortion procedure.”
He said their next step is to challenge the bill in court.
“The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal to preserve North Dakota’s, so Ohio legislatures are signing up the tax payers for a very expensive court battle that they’re probably going to lose,” said Mann.
Porter believes it’ll be up-held, especially after President-elect Trump’s victory.
“I think we have a brand new day here in America and we’re going to see a brand new Supreme Court with pro-life justices,” she said. “By the time this law gets to the Supreme Court, I’m confident it will be upheld.”