The anti-abortion movement has become more emboldened since the Trump administration was able to appoint two Supreme Court justices, paving the way for the new conservative federal bench to potentially overturn Roe v. Wade.
Indeed, in an 18-13 vote Wednesday, the Ohio Senate passed the so-called “heartbeat bill,” banning abortions after providers can detect a fetal heartbeat — which could be as early as six weeks, before many people even know they’re pregnant.
The House first passed the “heartbeat bill” in November, but a Senate committee amended the measure to clarify that officials would not be required to use a trans-vaginal ultrasound to detect the heartbeat. Providers could instead use an abdominal ultrasound, which detects the fetal heartbeat a few weeks later, usually around 11 weeks. Either way, the bill is a clear attempt by Ohio lawmakers to ban abortions before the fetus is viable. When talking about a fetus, the word “heartbeat” isn’t medically accurate, as it’s not a fully formed heart.
The measure now heads back to the House before heading to the desk of Gov. John Kasich (R). Kasich vetoed the measure before in 2016, but the lame-duck legislature is unfazed. Legislators have enough votes to override a veto, and they could always vote on the bill again next year after Gov.-elect Mike DeWine (R) takes office, as he said he supports the ban.
“[W]omen’s lives and our right to decide whether to have an abortion is not a political game; women and families suffer when abortion is pushed out of reach. If this bill becomes law, we will take this fight to court, and we will never stop fighting on behalf of women in Ohio and across the country,” said deputy director at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, Brigitte Amiri, in a statement on Wednesday.
“We literally crafted this legislation to be the arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade. It is made to come before the United States Supreme Court,” said the bill’s author, Janet Porter, who also worked on Roy Moore’s Senate campaign in Alabama and defended him when he was credibly accused of sexual misconduct with teen girls.
While Ohio’s ban is the first anti-abortion bill in the nation that could be sent to a governor since Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court in October, it’s hardly the only measure teed up to challenge Roe. There are at least 13 cases in the court pipeline and a measure signed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor is the furthest along; the Supreme Court still needs to decide whether to hear arguments.
The “heartbeat bill” isn’t even Ohio’s only ban taking aim at abortion precedents. A law prohibiting abortion if a provider believes the pregnant person is seeking it because the fetus has a disability, such as Down syndrome, was challenged and is now making its way to the Supreme Court.