Yesterday, Ohio became the sixth state in the country to pass a “heartbeat” bill that all but bans abortion in the state for women at any point after cardiac activity can be detected in the fetus, which can occur as early as five weeks after conception. That means that many women will only have missed their next period by a week or two, unaware that they are even pregnant, before losing the opportunity to obtain a legal abortion. Governor Mike DeWine, who was inaugurated in January, signed the bill yesterday afternoon. Ohio joins Kentucky, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Dakota to pass this style of bill, which is making its way through state legislatures all across the country.
By the way, in Ohio, this bill bans abortions in all cases after doctors can find a fetal “heartbeat,” except for when the pregnancy itself puts the mother’s health at risk. And yes, that means that you cannot legally get an abortion even in traumatic cases of rape or of incest. Doctors who perform abortions outside these new legal guidelines now face hefty fines, suspension or revocation of their medical licenses, and even felony charges and prison time.
“You’re going to be doing more procedures and subjecting women to more procedures and medications to get abortions, because they’re rushing between that four and five weeks to get it accomplished,” a maternal medicine expert in Ohio explained to NBC News. He added that this limited timeline would make it so that women wouldn’t even have time to miscarry rather than seek out abortion services; the reality is that a large percentage of pregnancies end in miscarriage — estimates are anywhere between 10-25 percent — with a majority occurring in the first trimester.
The heartbeat bill had reached the previous governor’s desk twice but had been rejected both times by then-Governor John Kasich, who based his refusal on the fact that he did not want to waste taxpayer money on legal battles that would inevitably overturn the heartbeat bill. The ACLU has already committed to overturning the bill in court. “This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight to the bitter end to ensure that this bill is permanently blocked,” Freda Levenson, an ACLU legal director told Cincinnati.com.
However, when the bill was introduced late last year, its lead sponsor in the House Representative Christina Hagan told the New York Times that she had worked to design the bill so that it would get overturned by lower courts but eventually be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court as a challenge to Roe v. Wade. “We believe Ohio is best positioned to send this through the Circuit Courts and to the federal Supreme Court,” she explained. Several heartbeat bills have already been overturned in the judicial system, so it’s unclear how much of a shot Ohio has in getting the courts to uphold what is likely an unconstitutional ban: Kentucky’s bill was overturned in March, Iowa’s bill was overturned in January, while bills from Arkansas and North Dakota were overturned in January of 2016.