"Heartbeat bill" headed to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's desk could ban abortion after 6 weeks


A bill is headed to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's desk that could effectively ban abortion after as little as six weeks. 

The so-called "Heartbeat bill" — which would outlaw abortion in every case, except to save the woman's life, as soon as a fetal heartbeat was detectable — passed through the Ohio Senate on Tuesday. The State Senate voted to add language from the "Heartbeat bill" onto child abuse legislation, House Bill 493. Senators then voted 21-10 to pass the amended bill, the House approved the changes and the provisions will now move to Kasich, for signature within 10 days. 

According to USA Today, the decision to pass the "Heartbeat bill," which has been around for years, is attributable to the election of Donald Trump: While Roe v. Wade stands, abortion is legal nationwide up until viability, roughly 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The president-elect, however, has mused openly about the ruling's possible demise during his administration, and is stacking his cabinet with men who would love to see abortion banned. The "Heartbeat Bill," which would outlaw abortions after about six weeks, would be a bounding leap in that direction. 

While federal courts have denied similar efforts at curtailing abortion rights in other states — North Dakota, Arkansas — on the grounds that heartbeat provisions are inherently unconstitutional, the political climate is changing in favor of abortion opponents. The American Civil Liberties Union has already announced its intention to challenge the measure in court, should Kasich sign it, but proponents of the Heartbeat Bill are banking on Trump's future.

Now one question remains: Will Kasich sign the "Heartbeat bill" into law? The Ohio governor's record betrays a steadfast anti-abortion stance. Since he took office in 2011, half the state's abortion clinics have closed, forcing many Ohio women to travel to Michigan if they want to terminate their pregnancies safely and legally. Kasich has signed into law 17 anti-abortion measures, according to the Washington Post

In 2013, the governor approved a budget that cut Planned Parenthood funding as well as funds for rape crisis centers that listed abortion among patients' options. In 2016, he went after Planned Parenthood again, signing legislation that blocked public funding to health care providers who also provided abortion. In so doing, he also cut funding for the reproductive health services Planned Parenthood and its ilk offer: STI testing, cancer screening, well woman exams, contraception access and prenatal care. 

Carolyn Kaster/AP

As Politico reported, Kasich has signed bills requiring clinics to secure admitting privileges at local hospitals, a popular measure enacted by right-leaning states in recent years that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in June. He has required women seeking abortion to first submit to an ultrasound. 

And while, according to USA Today, he's traditionally demurred on iterations of the flagrantly unconstitutional "Heartbeat Bill," he can veto it while still passing abortion restrictions: A competing bill, Senate Bill 127, could also be heading to Kasich's desk if the House approves it on Wednesday. That measure would ban most abortion after 20 weeks and is the choice of Ohio Right to Life because it's less likely to be overturned by the courts. 

"We're putting all of our focus on the 20-week ban," the anti-abortion organization's president, Mike Gonidakis, told the Blade. "We're trying not to leave anything behind. Ohio Right to Life will trust the process and how it plays out."

Kasich, it's worth noting, has approved similar abortion bans before: In 2011, he signed a bill that would have outlawed abortion at 20 weeks, unless a physician judged that the fetus had not yet reached viability. As mentioned, that usually happens around 24 weeks, so the time period currently allotted in Ohio's abortion law effectively aligns with that outlined in Roe. But not, it would seem, for much longer.