Proponents of abortion rights were dealt a blow in Ohio on Dec. 6 as a controversial bill cleared the state legislature. The bill, now awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. John Kasich, would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected.
“This bill has been a priority of the pro-life community for a long time and I’m happy to see it finally go to the governor’s desk,” State Rep. Niraj Antani, a Republican from Miami Township, said, notes WHIO. “I believe it will protect the innocent lives of thousands in Ohio.”
Ohio’s abortion rate has been steadily dropping for 15 years, with 2015 being the lowest on record since 1976. Additionally, 52 percent of abortions happen at nine weeks or earlier in the pregnancy.
While Kasich has not signaled whether he will sign or veto the bill, Emmalee Kalmbach, the governor’s press secretary, did affirm Kasich's commitment to pro-life legislation. “The governor believes in the sanctity of human life and has a strong, consistent pro-life record.”
But Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio issued a statement calling the bill unconstitutional, and added that the new restriction would block an abortion before a woman may know she is pregnant. A fetus may develop a heartbeat as early as six weeks.
“Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe, legal health care in her community,” Copeland wrote. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients. One in 3 women choose to have an abortion in their lifetime, and 7 in 10 Americans support legal access to abortion care. Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable.”
The Ohio legislature pushed the bill after being emboldened by November’s federal elections, according to The Washington Post.
“New president, new Supreme Court justice appointees, change the dynamic,” Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said after the bill’s vote. He added that the heartbeat bill has “it has a better chance than it did before” of passing a constitutional challenge.