The Ohio Senate passed one of the most comprehensive and impactful abortion limitations in the country Wednesday.
Senate Bill 23 (SB 23), commonly referred to as the “Heartbeat Bill” would ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected by a doctor. In many cases, this can be as early as six weeks.
This is the third time in the last decade that the bill, or a version of it, has been considered by the state. The first two bills were advanced by, both, the Ohio House and Senate. They were subsequently vetoed by then-Governor John Kasich. Following his 2018 veto, Kasich defended his decision, stating:
I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life. However, the central provision of Sub. H.B. 258, that an abortion cannot be performed if a heartbeat has been detected in the unborn child, is contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion. Because the lower federal courts are bound to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents on abortion, Sub. H.B. 258 will likely be struck down as unconstitutional. The State of Ohio will be the losing party in the lawsuit, and, as the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.
Current Ohio Republican governor Mike DeWine has stated that he will “absolutely” sign the bill, should it come to his desk.
One of the primary complications the measure will face is that detection of a heartbeat is largely dependent on available medical equipment. As previously reported, “With a general stethoscope, a doctor can confirm a heartbeat at nine weeks. With a transvaginal ultrasound, heartbeats can be detected within the first month.” The general consensus is that this will limit abortions to the sixth week of pregnancy.
In addition to the limit, it would make performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected a felony. Penalties range from 6-12 months in prison, a $2,500 fine and the potential loss of their license. The bill does not carry exemption for cases of rape or incest.
It is likely that, should DeWine sign the bill, a legal challenge would immediately follow – something many pro-life advocates welcome.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kristina Roegner” by Kristina Roegner. Background Photo “Ohio Senate Floor” by the Ohio Senate