Ohio just became the third state this year to enact a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens at around six weeks of gestation — a point in which many women don't even know they're pregnant.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 23 into law Thursday, just one day after it passed in the Ohio House of Representatives. Versions of this legislation, which are commonly known as "heartbeat bills," were vetoed twice before by former Gov. John Kasich, most recently in December. But DeWine said even before taking office that he would enact it.
Ohio previously banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, a restriction that was signed into law by Kasich the first time he vetoed the state's heartbeat bill. SB23 is much more extreme. The legislation criminalizes health providers who offer abortion care after a fetal heartbeat is detected, slapping them with with a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to one year in prison. While the measure includes an exception for cases where the woman's health is at risk, it contains no exceptions for women seeking an abortion in instances of rape or incest.
As we've reported before, more than a dozen states — including Georgia, Louisiana, and Kentucky — have introduced this type of legislation since January. These measures are largely considered unconstitutional due to the U.S.Supreme Court's 1992 decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability. (Researches say that happens at around 22 weeks.) Reproductive rights advocates have said they'll file a lawsuit against the state if DeWine signs SB23 into law because of this precedent.
But these legal challenges are exactly what most anti-choice lawmakers establishing extreme abortion restrictions are hoping for. "These bans are very much at the center of Roe v. Wade,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, previously told Refinery29. She emphasized anti-abortion lawmakers have been emboldened by the new makeup of the Supreme Court, which is now solidly conservative. “The idea is to kick off a court case and ultimately is to get this before the U.S. Supreme Court with the anticipation that the court is looking to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade. Conservatives are very eager to get that ball rolling.”