Heartbeat Abortion Bill Moves Forward in Ohio Legislature
If signed, the law would make Ohio the first state to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The Ohio Senate approved a so-called heartbeat abortion bill on Wednesday, sending it to a final vote.
If signed, the law would make Ohio the first state to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected—in some cases, after just six weeks of pregnancy. Gov. John Kasich has said he will veto the bill if it lands on his desk.
The bill, which the Ohio House approved last month, makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. It also allows the state medical board to revoke the license of any doctor performing an abortion after cardiac activity is detected, without going through a court process.
Jocelyn Rosnick, policy director for the ACLU of Ohio, called the bill a “total abortion ban.”
“Yes, they’re packaging it as ‘six weeks,’ but in reality, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that time, and it will be impossible for them to access abortion when they find out,” Rosnick said in a statement.
Other women’s rights groups called the bill an attack on Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the country. They noted that previous attempts at “heartbeat” abortion bans in other states have been blocked by courts. Even Ohio Right to Life, one of the biggest anti-abortion groups in the state, did not endorse the bill over concerns about its constitutionality.
Republican Sen. Bill Coley acknowledged as much on the floor Wednesday, saying past attempts to pass similar bans had been doomed due to the makeup of the Supreme Court.
"The election of President Trump and his appointees to the Supreme Court of the United States have changed that makeup and given a law like this a real chance," Sen. Coley said on Wednesday.
The Senate committee added a last-minute amendment Wednesday stating that transvaginal ultrasounds would not be required to detect a fetal heartbeat. The provision could extend the length of time women can access abortions to 11 or 12 weeks gestation, according to the Dayton Daily News.
The Ohio House is currently weighing a different ban on “dilation and evacuation” abortions, which is the most commonly used technique after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Republicans shot down a number of amendments to the Senate bill during the full vote Wednesday, including exceptions for rape and incest and a petition to take the pregnant woman's mental health into account. An amendment allowing emergency rooms to give sexual assault victims information about emergency contraceptives was also tabled.
The bill now moves to the House for a vote on the amendments, and then to Kasich. If he vetoes it, the legislature could try to override him or wait until the next session when Gov.-elect Mike DeWine, who says he would sign it, takes office.