Abortion Access in Ohio Under Attack in Lame Duck Session

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In the final days of the lame-duck session for the 131st General Assembly, two bills restricting abortion access are in danger of being signed into law in Ohio.

The first bill of concern is the “Heartbeat Bill” – legislation that would bans all abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks and at a time before many women even know that they are pregnant. The bill does not offer exceptions for rape or incest.

The Ohio House passed the “Heartbeat Bill” earlier in the summer, but it sat untouched and unlikely to be taken up again by the legislature this session. Similar legislation was passed in Arkansas and North Dakota, but was struck down by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as it directly violates the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  Despite the clear unconstitutionality of such legislation, it was moved forward unexpectedly in Ohio by Senate Republicans yesterday.

At the last minute, the Senate amended Sub HB 493 – legislation that would update reporting laws for child abuse and neglect – at the last minute to include the six-week abortion ban. The amended bill passed in the Senate by a 21-10 vote. It was sent back to the House for a vote later that evening, and passed by a 56-39 vote.

The bill will now move forward to be signed by Governor Kasich, with option of vetoing the entire bill or using a line-item veto to remove the restriction on abortion access from the bill. Although he had previously stated concern with such a bill as it would be likely found unconstitutional under the current Supreme Court, he has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.  If it is signed, it will be the strictest abortion law in the entire country.

The second threat to abortion access is a 20-week abortion ban (Senate Bill 127), which was indicated for some time as a bill that was likely to pass during this lame-duck session.  No exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the woman are included in the legislation. Again, the constitutionality of this bill can be questioned as 20-week bans prevent women from obtaining pre-viability abortions.  Additionally, the law could go against the recent Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court decision as it would fail the undue burden test.

About 20 minutes before the House was set to convene on Tuesday night, a hearing on SB 127 was added to the schedule for that evening. The bill passed 64-29 in the Ohio House on Thursday night, and will move on to Gov. Kasich to either be signed into law or vetoed.

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Call Ohio Gov. John Kasich at (614) 466-3555.  Tell him that you strong oppose any abortion bans, and to veto any restrictions to abortion access that pass in the legislature, including a line-item veto of the “Heartbeat Bill” in HB 493 and a veto of the 20-week ban (SB 127).