Ohio Governor Vetoes "Heartbeat Bill," Signs 20-Week Abortion Ban

Ohio's governor just made a decision on two restrictive abortion proposals on his desk. Gov. John Kasich vetoed a controversial provision that would ban abortion after the first detection of a heartbeat, an occurrence that can happen as early as six weeks after conception. But the Republican lawmaker did sign into law another extremely restrictive bill, banning abortion after 20 weeks in the state.

Groups that support reproductive were quick to blast the new law.

"This is a dark day for the women of Ohio," Jess O’Connell, executive director of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. "These kinds of restrictions on women’s health are unconstitutional, and endanger the lives of countless women across the state.

This article was originally published on December 7, 2016.

This time let's hope the third time is not the charm. A "heartbeat bill" in Ohio that has already been defeated twice is on its way to Gov. John Kasich. If passed, it would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks after conception — before most women even know they're pregnant, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Kasich, who opposes abortion and who was among the Republican hopefuls for his party's candidate for president, has in the past questioned if such a bill is constitutional. He has not said whether or not he will sign the bill, which was approved last night by the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives. It had cleared the state Senate earlier that day after it was added to an unrelated child welfare bill.

The Ohio bill, if signed into law, would make the Rust Belt State one of the worst places in America to terminate a pregnancy. It would not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, though it would include termination to save the life of the pregnant woman.

North Dakota and Arkansas passed similar bills that were later struck down as incompatible with Roe v. Wade; the Supreme Court declined to hear any appeals, sending the signal that an Ohio law would meet the same fate.

But Ohio's conservative lawmakers see an opening after Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election last month. State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Trump's election and the expectation that he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans. (In addition to the vacant seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, three additional Supreme Court justices may soon retire, allowing a President Trump to assemble a heavily conservative top court.)
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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."

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Kathy DiCristofaro, the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus chair, said that the bill "is cruel and plainly unconstitutional — but it seems like Ohio Republicans don’t care about the Constitution. Trump’s vision for America is already alive and well in the Buckeye State."

"This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients," Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, added.

Organizations and people took to Twitter to express their outrage and rally people behind the hashtags #StopTheBans and #WeWontGoBack.
And providers in Ohio vowed to fight the proposals — and continue serving the health care needs of the women in the state.

Nancy R. Starner, communications director at Preterm, said the phone lines at the Cleveland abortion clinic are already filled with “women asking if abortion is still legal in Ohio.” She called the “heartbeat bill” and another proposal to ban abortion after 20 weeks that is working its way through the legislature an “affront to the rights and dignity of women in Ohio.”

“Politicians aren’t medical experts and they have no place interfering in our personal health decisions,” she said in a statement. “When it comes to the most important decisions in life, such as whether and when to become a parent, it is vital that each of us is able to consider all options—with the advice of the health care professionals we trust.”

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.
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This is a developing story. It has been updated with additional comment.
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