The Ohio legislature passed the strictest abortion law in the country Tuesday, sending what is effectively a six-week abortion ban to Republican Gov. John Kasich’s desk, in a move that stunned pro-abortion activists.
The bill bans anyone from performing an abortion without checking for a fetal heartbeat or proceeding with the abortion if a heartbeat is detected — usually around the six-week point of a pregnancy. A doctor who breaks the law could be convicted of a fifth-degree felony punishable by up to a year in prison, and could face a civil lawsuit from the mother, reports The Columbus Dispatch. There are no exceptions for incest, rape or health of the mother.
President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices to the court emboldened the legislature to move forward with the bill, which was previously stalled over concerns it would be found unconstitutional. Only two other states have passed such a law (Arkansas and North Dakota) and in both cases, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to either case.
Kasich has previously opposed the bill over those concerns, but his spokesman declined to comment to the Columbus Dispatch following its passage so it’s unclear whether he will veto the measure.
The surprise move “stunned” officials of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, reported the Dispatch. “The unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, known as the ‘Heartbeat Bill,’ would block access to safe and legal abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant,” the group said in a statement. “The amendment has no exceptions in the bill for rape, incest, or to protect the health of the woman and would criminalize doctors who perform abortion procedures, regardless of the reason.”
Ohio Right to Life also signaled reservations about the bill, as it has been pushing a separate bill for a 20-week abortion ban the group thinks is more realistic. “Our ultimate goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade and we feel the 20-week ban is the best (legal) strategy,” the group’s president told the Dispatch. “There is a reason no other state has a Heartbeat Bill.”
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the bill has a “better chance” of surviving a constitutional review in the courts, given the new Trump administration. “A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” he said. “I think it has a better chance than it did before.”
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