With a stroke of a pen; many, many pens; Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the Heartbeat Abortion Bill finally fully completing the legislation’s long journey from bill to act to law.
According to the law’s architect Janet Porter, Ohio becomes the seventh state in the nation to have such a law on its books; and she has played instrumental roles in those previous success stories.
Porter originally brought her idea to the Statehouse nearly eight years ago. Unable to get it passed, Porter shopped it around to other states where passage was easier.
Over these past eight years, the Ohio Legislature has taken up the legislation every General Assembly and in 2016, it passed both chambers without the support of Ohio Right to Life. The only thing standing in its way was then Governor John Kasich. Kasich vetoed the bill.
The bill passed for a second time in December of 2018, shortly after Brett Kavenaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court and Ohio Right to Life finally official supported the legislation. Kasich vetoed the bill once again.
This time however, Republicans had a supermajority in both the House and the Senate and there was nothing to stop them from overriding Kasich’s veto. Except one solitary vote; that of State Senator Bill Beagle who did not feel the argument to override the governor’s veto was strong enough despite the fact he strongly supported the bill and had voted for it to pass.
With Governor Mike DeWine set to take over the governorship, Pro-Life supporters saw this defeat as a minor setback.They had in his election the champion they were looking for, as he had pledged to sign the bill while campaigning for the job.
In 2019, shortly after a new General Assembly began, the bill was brought forward. Normally, lawmakers held off on dealing with the legislation until lame duck, the time right after lawmakers in the House of Representatives are re-elected in November and the end of session in December.
After a few weeks in both chambers, the bill was passed for a third time in five years and nearly 24 hours after that, Governor DeWine fulfilled his campaign promise and signed the bill into law.
The bill carries no exceptions for rape or incest. It bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy.
Opponents of the law argue that most women do not even realize they are pregnant until after six weeks and they have missed multiple periods. As such, opponents argue, the law will ban nearly all abortions in the state.
Supporters of the law say that the heartbeat is the indicator of the viability of life they are looking for to get Roe v Wade overturned. The moment of viability of the fetus played a role in the historic Supreme Court decision. Supporters say once a heartbeat can be detected a fetus is roughly 95% likely to be born.
However, some opponents say just because a heartbeat is present does not mean you are alive; pointing out that machines are sometimes used to maintain the heartbeat long enough to harvest organs of donors after they have died.
Further, medical professionals point out that if a fetus were to be removed from the pregnant woman at six weeks when a heartbeat could be detected it would not survive. There are no machines or technology currently capable of helping the fetus to develop lungs or a fully functioning brain something it does not have at six weeks.
The legal arguments over the constitutionality of the law are already being drawn up. Hours before DeWine signed the bill into law, critics announced they would be filing a lawsuit to block it. In the courts is exactly where DeWine wanted this to end up.
According to DeWine, this legal battle could be what the U.S. Supreme Court uses to re-examine Roe v Wade. And DeWine says Ohio will respect the ruling of the court regardless of the outcome.
This may not be the end of abortion legislation being pursued here at the Statehouse. Last General Assembly Nino Vitale proposed banning abortion completely, with no exceptions.
And for those of you out there looking at what other states are doing; in Texas, a bill was just introduced that would make an abortion punishable by the death penalty. This last example may seem extreme, but at some point eight years ago some thought that about the Heartbeat Abortion Bill; some still do.