Ohio ‘heartbeat bill’ abortion ban moves to governor – USA TODAY
COLUMBUS, Ohio â Ohio would have the country’s most restrictive abortion laws under a bill sent to Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday, as leading Republicans were emboldened by the anticipation of Donald Trump’s upcoming federal and Supreme court appointments.
If signed by Kasich, the so-called “heartbeat bill” would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks’ gestation. The proposal would not exempt pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, but does include an exception for an abortion to save the life of the pregnant woman.
The change would put the state in violation of current constitutional standards for abortion rights.
For years, Kasich, leading Republican senators and Ohio Right to Life have cited its unconstitutionality as their reason for opposing the heartbeat measure. Federal courts have struck down similar laws in North Dakota and Arkansas.
Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, Ohio, even suggested last year that supporters of the heartbeat bill ultimately were undermining efforts “to save babies.”
On Tuesday, Senate Republicans changed course. Faber cited Trump’s election to the presidency as justification for his change of heart, saying the effort could have a shot in the courts with Trump’s appointees. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states cannot prohibit abortions unless a fetus is viable outside the womb, generally accepted as 24 weeks’ gestation.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis was skeptical of Faber’s logic that Trump’s presidency would dramatically change the heartbeat bill’s chances. The abortion-opponent groupÂ instead favors passage of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation as the vehicle for overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Everyone is swept up in Trumpmania, but let’s be realistic,” said Gonidakis.
Republican Sens. Bill SeitzÂ and Bill ColeyÂ were among the three Republicans who voted against the Senate’s decision to add the abortion ban into a separate bill, which would make changes to the way child abuse and neglect are reported.
“The sad reality of this bill passing will be that we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on attorney fees for a bill that has zero chance of becoming law,” said Coley, who voted against the bill. “My biggest fear is that some of the great work that we have done in protecting life here in Ohio will be jeopardized.”
But newly elected Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican from Middletown,Â said she was sent to Columbus to pass legislation like the heartbeat bill. “I have waited years for this bill,” said Keller, who runs the Community Pregnancy Center.
Democrats railed against the last-minute changes. “You might as well call me a baby killer,” said Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, who had revealed her rape and subsequent abortion. “Thereâs no (rape) exception to this legislation and you know it.”
Others found fault with Faber’s change of heart. “The president-elect has not taken office. The president-elect has not selected any Supreme Court justices, and there are not enough vacancies to make a change,” said Sen. Charleta Tavares, a Democrat from Columbus. Still, the amended child abuse bill passed the Senate 21-10.
Late Tuesday, the House passed the bill, 56-39, sending the ban to the governor. Seven House Republicans opposed the bill and two Democrats voted for it.
Kasich must decide whether to veto the abortion ban. The child abuse legislation contains an appropriation of tax revenue, so Kasich would have the authority to line-item veto the heartbeat bill if he wanted. Lawmakers plan to pass a 20-week ban as well, so Kasich could veto the stricter abortion ban while still tightening Ohio’s restrictions on abortion.
The Republican governor opposes abortion, but has voiced doubts about the heartbeat bill in the past.
“I share the concerns of Right to Life about this bill and about potential litigation,” Kasich told reporters last year. He declined to comment Tuesday through a spokeswoman.