Ohio Governor John Kasich had a tough choice to make following the passage of the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which would have banned abortion in the state of Ohio if a fetal heartbeat was detectable. Kasich is an avowed pro-life conservative Republican, and the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill would have made abortion laws in the state the most restrictive in the nation.
Not surprisingly, the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill has been widely panned by women’s rights advocates.
As the Columbus Dispatch reports, the heartbeat bill wasn’t the only one that ended up on Governor Kasich’s desk. The Ohio legislature also passed a second bill, SB 127, which would ban abortions in Ohio after 20 weeks gestation. The pair of abortion bills, both designed to further restrict safe, legal abortion on demand in Ohio, gave the staunch pro-life second-term governor a choice when it came to the future of abortion rights in his state.
On Tuesday, John Kasich vetoed the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill, which would have effectively outlawed abortion in the state. In many cases, a fetal heartbeat is detectable before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. According to Governor Kasich, the bill would likely have not passed Constitutional muster. Had it been signed into law, it most likely would have been scrapped by the courts. In an effort to avoid a lengthy, costly, and most likely losing legal battle over the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill, the governor scrapped it.
“I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life.”
As CNN reports, the governor cited past, similarly restrictive abortion laws, that have been weeded out by the court system and ignored by the Supreme Court. In short, it was determined that the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill would likely have been ruled by the courts to be in violation of women’s Constitutional rights.
“Similar legislation enacted in two other states has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal judges, and the Supreme Court declined to review those decisions.”
According to federal courts that have struck down laws similar to the now-vetoed Ohio heartbeat abortion law, such laws are an “undue restriction on women’s right to an abortion.”
The Ohio governor vetoed the so-called heartbeat bill using his line-item veto power, as the controversial proposed abortion restriction had been incorporated in to House Bill 493, which also allocated funds to create the “Joint Legislative Committee on Adoption Promotion” and child abuse reporting requirements. Only the heartbeat abortion ban was removed from the bill.
However, Tuesday’s decision to preemptively curtail the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill was not a victory for women’s rights. Not by a long shot. As Governor Kasich conceded, the heartbeat abortion bill probably wouldn’t have passed Constitutional muster. In all likelihood, even if he had signed it, it would not have negatively impacted any woman’s right to choose, because it would have most likely been ruled unconstitutional in court.
The 20-week abortion ban bill that the Ohio governor did choose to sign into law will go into effect in 90 days. It will make all post-20-week abortion in Ohio illegal, except to save the life of the gestating woman. There will be no provisions for maternal health (not the same as “life”), fetal abnormality, rape or incest.
Current Ohio abortion law allows abortion after 24 weeks in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother; between 20 and 24 weeks, medical certification to determine the non-viability of the fetus is required. The new Ohio abortion law cites fetal pain (a controversial concept, even among physicians), and was sponsored by Ohio Right to Life. It essentially outlaws abortion in cases of “a human pregnancy of a pain-capable unborn child.”
Last year, there were roughly 21,000 abortions performed in Ohio. Of those, only 145 were performed after 20 weeks gestation.
Under the new Ohio abortion law, doctors will face severe legal consequences for performing post-20-week abortions (except to safe the life of the gestating woman). After the abortion law goes into effect, it will be a fourth-degree felony to perform an abortion after 20 weeks gestation, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and the loss of a medical license.
This is the 18th anti-choice piece of legislation that Governor John Kasich has signed into law during his tenure. Kasich has long supported abortion exemptions for victims of rape and incest. Unfortunately for those women, neither of the bills that crossed the governor’s desk last week included the language required to protect their rights.
The Ohio Right to Life organization has issued a statement in support of the Ohio governor’s decision to veto the heartbeat abortion bill and sign the 20-week abortion ban into law instead. According to the president of the organization, the 20-week ban could help to end abortion in America due to its language addressing “fetal pain.” The organization had opposed the heartbeat abortion bill, agreeing with the governor that it would likely be nullified in the courts.
“The 20-week ban was nationally designed to be the vehicle to end abortion in America. It challenges the current national abortion standard and properly moves the legal needle from viability to the baby’s ability to feel pain. Given the current make-up of the United States Supreme Court, Governor Kasich got it right by embracing the strategic incremental approach to ending abortion.”
What do you think about Governor Kasich’s abortion decision? Do you support a 20-week abortion ban? Do you think he should have required language to protect victims of rape and incest? What are your thoughts regarding the veto of the Ohio heartbeat abortion bill?
[Featured Image by Susan Walsh/AP Images]