Ohio lawmakers approve most extreme abortion ban in the nation

The bill would ban abortion at six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.

USA-Pr0-Life and Pro-Choice advocates protest at the Supreme Court in Washington DC in anticipation of the Supreme Court ‘s ruling on free access to abortion. CREDIT: AP/Patsy Lynch
USA-Pr0-Life and Pro-Choice advocates protest at the Supreme Court in Washington DC in anticipation of the Supreme Court ‘s ruling on free access to abortion. CREDIT: AP/Patsy Lynch

Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that would ban abortions six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy on Tuesday, making it the most extreme abortion ban in the country. Six weeks is the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. By calling this legislation a “heartbeat bill” anti-abortion lawmakers can take the focus away from the woman carrying the pregnancy and toward the fetus.

Legislators sneaked the anti-abortion language into a Senate bill addressing child abuse and neglect laws at the last minute on Monday. The House voted to approve the bill Tuesday night.

Anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life previously said the bill would not stand up to a constitutional challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked similar laws in North Dakota and Arkansas that criminalized abortion after six weeks and 12 weeks respectively, and the Ohio Senate previously didn’t act on the bill. But with a Donald Trump administration and a new Supreme Court justice in the near future, anti-abortion lawmakers like their chances, Cleveland.com reported.

“A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Republican Senate President Keith Faber said during the lame duck session, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “I think it has a better chance than it did before.”

It’s unclear whether Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) will sign the bill. He expressed concerns about the constitutionality of such a bill in 2014. Kasich said he is “pro-life with the exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother.” Kasich supported a 2011 bill banning abortion at 20 weeks and signed a bill in February that would inevitably block funding to Planned Parenthood.

Abortion is legal up to the point of viability, which is around 24 weeks of a pregnancy, under Roe v. Wade. Some states are enacting 20-week abortion bans, but banning abortion at six weeks has always been a much riskier strategy. This begs the question: How many more conservative state lawmakers will follow Ohio’s example?

Yale University and City University of New York researchers considered a scenario in which Roe v. Wade was repealed. In 2012, the researchers projected hypothetical situations where either 31 or 46 states with anti-choice legislators banned abortion and found that women of color and poor women would struggle to find a safe and affordable procedure. Abortion rates among women of color would be 1.8 points lower than the rates among white women under the 31-state ban scenario.