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Ohio governor vetoes ‘heartbeat bill’ but bans abortion after 20 weeks — even for rape victims

Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a so-called heartbeat bill and instead signed a different bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a so-called heartbeat bill that would have outlawed abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and instead signed a different bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. The 20-week ban makes no exception for cases involving rape or incest.

The only exception is when continuing a pregnancy past 20 weeks endangers the woman’s life or poses a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” The committee working on the bill removed diabetes and multiple sclerosis from the list of conditions justifying an exception to the law, the Columbus Dispatch reported.


Lawmakers passed the 20-week abortion ban, also called Senate Bill 127 and sponsored by Republican state Sen. Peggy Lehner, last week after the surprise passage of the controversial “heartbeat bill.”

Abortion-rights advocates say both measures violate the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade that says women have a legal right to an abortion until the point of “fetal viability,” which is generally estimated to be about 24 to 27 weeks into a pregnancy. Proponents of banning abortions after 20 weeks often cite a disputed theory, which is not supported by scientific research, that 20 weeks is the point at which a fetus can feel pain.

Ohio law previously permitted abortions up to 24 weeks.

Kasich, a moderate Catholic Republican who ran for president this year, has described himself as being against abortion with the exception of cases involving rape or incest. Including S.B. 127, he has enacted 18 anti-abortion provisions since he took office in 2011. The heartbeat bill is the only one he has not signed.

Now, any doctor who performs abortions in Ohio after the 20-week mark could lose his or her medical license and be slapped with fourth-degree felony charges.

Nationally, 1.3 percent of abortions are performed after 20 weeks, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion among its many health services, notes that abortions after 20 weeks are generally required “in very complex circumstances.”

Fifteen other states outlaw abortion after 20 weeks. Arkansas is the only one of those 15 (now 16, counting Ohio) that makes an exception for rape or incest. Bans on abortions after 20 weeks were struck down in Arizona and Idaho.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election has emboldened anti-abortion lawmakers. “This bill has been waiting in the wings for a number of years, and for some reason it never broke through,” Nash said. “Now with this new political day, it looked like it was going to move, and it moved very quickly.”