Ohio’s “Heartbeat” Bill Could Essentially Ban Abortion

On Tuesday, Ohio’s legislature snuck through a six-week abortion ban attached to a larger bill covering child abuse laws. Should Governor John Kasich sign the bill into law, it would grant Ohio the toughest abortion restrictions in the country.

The legislation functionally outlaws abortion with no allowances for rape or incest — though it does have a “life of the mother” exception.

Ohio lawmakers cited president-elect Donald Trump’s victory in the election as one of the reasons they moved forward with the bill. Though it is likely unconstitutional, they felt that changes to the Supreme Court under his tenure might make for a more favorable climate.

If a six-week ban sounds onerous, but favorable to a total abortion ban, think again.

Most pregnancies are dated to the start of the patient’s last menstrual period, considered to be a fairly reliable gauge. Though many people have periods that last around 28 days, it’s not uncommon to go a few days over. By the time a patient suspects a pregnancy, it may be too late.

The pregnancy could be very close to the six week cutoff — and that doesn’t even take into account the time required to make arrangements for an abortion. For people on birth control who don’t think pregnancy is a big risk — or teens with irregular cycles — being a few days late might be normal or simply an indicator of stress. The patient wouldn’t necessarily think of pregnancy.

Therefore, a six week ban essentially means that by the time people figure out they are pregnant, they will not be able to get an abortion. Ironically, the people perhaps most likely to know about pregnancies before the cutoff point are those who are desperately trying to get pregnant — and taking pregnancy tests frequently.

This bill is sinister enough as-is, especially with people repeatedly referring to the legislation as a “heartbeat bill” to make a six-week-old fetus sound morally equivalent to a human being. A fetus doesn’t even reach the gestational age of extrauterine viability until about 24 weeks with current advances in medicine.

It should be noted that despite language about life beginning at conception, as many as 25 percent of pregnancies actually end in natural miscarriage — most within the first 13 weeks.

The decision to attach this ban via an amendment to a child abuse bill is not a coincidence. It’s actually a masterwork of a PR move.

As Republican Senator Kris Jordan explained:

We in this chamber discuss the opportunities for children all in the context of education, medication and infant mortality. But through our inaction we ensure that some children won’t have the most important opportunity of all — the opportunity to live.

By pegging abortion to child abuse, Republicans craftily classed a medical procedure with abhorrent behavior that any right-thinking person would be opposed to.

Democrats, reproductive rights advocates and civil liberties groups like the ACLU of Ohio have registered their opposition to this and similar bills, arguing that they are unconstitutional.

Another opponent of the bill might surprise you: Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis, who says that a Supreme Court victory for his movement isn’t likely, and thus the bill is doomed to fail if challenged.

The Supreme Court struck down a similar law in North Dakota, along with a 12-week ban in Arkansas. The highest court in the land is thus far sticking to established jurisprudence on the subject.

These concerns may drive Governor Kasich to use a line-item veto, as passing unconstitutional legislation raises the risk of costly litigation. Kasich has also gone on record to say that though he is anti-abortion, he supports exceptions for rape and incest — he may balk at a bill that doesn’t include them.

Stand up for one of women’s most foundational rights: the right to choose. Urge Governor Kasich to veto this dangerous and regressive bill immediately by signing this petition.