Ohio lawmakers on Tuesday passed one of the most stringent pieces of abortion legislation in the U.S.: It would ban abortions from the detection of a fetal heartbeat — about six weeks into pregnancy — with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Only one step separates House Bill 493, known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” from becoming law: Gov. John Kasich’s signature.
Votes in the Ohio House and Senate, which passed the bill, fell largely along party lines. Two previous efforts to pass the Heartbeat Bill failed in the Senate due to concerns it would meet the same fate as similar pieces of legislation in North Dakota and Arkansas, which federal courts struck down as unconstitutional. This time around, however, Ohio lawmakers folded the Heartbeat Bill — which would make abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat a felony — into a measure amending Ohio’s child abuse laws. Current Ohio law permits abortions up to about 20 weeks.
With President-elect Donald Trump and his Vice President-elect Mike Pence heading to the White House on Jan. 20, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers will operate under a supportive administration. Trump, who has the opportunity to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, has suggested that women who have abortions should face “some form of punishment” if they become illegal. And Pence has promised that under the new administration, Roe v. Wade will be “consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.”
“A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic,” Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, told the Columbus Dispatch. “There was consensus in our caucus to move forward.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement Tuesday: “Clearly this bill’s supporters are hoping that President-elect Trump will have the chance to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with justices that are poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade. We must prevent that from happening to protect women’s lives.”
Kasich, a moderate Catholic Republican in many ways, is staunchly anti-abortion, with the exception of cases involving rape or incest. While he expressed concern over the constitutionality of previous versions of the Heartbeat Bill, Kasich has voted against late-term abortions and supports defunding Planned Parenthood. Since taking office, he has enacted 17 anti-abortion provisions.
Kasich’s office did not respond immediately for comment.