The Ohio legislature just passed another bill banning abortion

The Ohio legislature passed the second bill this week that would impose some of the strictest bans on abortion in the country.

The first, passed Tuesday, is known as the heartbeat bill because it bans abortion after the fetus' heartbeat can be detected. The second, passed Thursday, would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

Both now head to Gov. John Kasich, who hasn't said whether he'll sign or veto either.

Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said the bills would make abortion illegal in the state, forcing women to travel long distances if they needed the procedure.

"For the second time in a week, the Ohio Legislature has inserted itself into women's private and personal health care decisions," Harvey said in a statement sent to Business Insider. "These bans are rejected by Ohioans. ... We're going to keep fighting back. Ohio legislators need to listen and John Kasich needs to veto these dangerous bans."

The bills

Doctors can detect a fetus' heartbeat as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Women usually don't find out they're pregnant until four to seven weeks in — meaning the heartbeat bill would most likely leave many women unable to get a safe, legal abortion in the state.

Only 478 of the 20,976 abortions reported in Ohio in 2015 involved pregnancies of more than 19 weeks, according to the state Department of Health. Fewer than 1% of abortions in the state occurred after 21 weeks into the pregnancy.

Research has found that most women who get abortions at or after 20 weeks wanted to get one sooner, but couldn't because they couldn't travel to get one, they were experiencing domestic violence, they were depressed or had substance abuse problems, or they couldn't afford it.

Another reason to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks is because of severe birth defects, such as Trisomy 18, where the fetus wouldn't survive if the woman carried it to term. On Wednesday, a couple who lost two pregnancies to this disease testified before the House, encouraging the committee to reject the 20-week bill.

Teresa Fedor ohio leg
Teresa Fedor ohio leg

Thomson Reuters

Both bills allow an exception if the mother's health is endangered, but not for cases of rape or incest. Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, who revealed to the legislature last year that she had an abortion after she was raped while in the military, called the ban an "attack on women."

Abortion-rights advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, decried the bill, calling it unconstitutional and saying it violates the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade granting women a constitutional right to safe, legal abortions.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to appoint justices who oppose abortion and would overturn the landmark case, leaving reproductive rights up to the states.

Republican Keith Faber, the president of the Ohio Senate, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Trump's victory emboldened the legislature to pass the heartbeat bill, with the hope that the courts would uphold it.

"I think it has a better chance than it did before" to survive a legal challenge, Faber said.

"Clearly this bill's supporters are hoping that President-elect Trump will have the chance to pack the US Supreme Court with justices that are poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade," Kellie Copeland, the executive director of the abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement on the heartbeat bill.

"We must prevent that from happening to protect women's lives," Copeland added. "This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients."

Abortion-rights advocates protested outside the governor's mansion Tuesday night, encouraging Kasich to veto the bill:

Kasich's press secretary, Emmalee Kalmbach, declined to comment on whether he would sign the heartbeat bill, according to The Columbus Dispatch, and hasn't made any further statements on the 20-week bill.

For the heartbeat bill, Kasich could line-item veto the part of the bill banning abortion, The Dispatch reports, with Kathy DiCristofaro, the chair of the Ohio Democratic Women's Caucus, describing the abortion ban as being "tacked on as a last-minute amendment" to a bill addressing child-abuse prevention. The 20-week ban is its own standalone bill, so he has to sign or veto that one as a whole.

Though Kasich opposes abortion, he previously said he wouldn't sign a heartbeat bill because of doubts over whether it would be constitutional.

The ACLU of Ohio has threatened to sue if either bill becomes law. Other abortions-rights advocates would most likely join their suit.

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