COLUMBUS — Lawmakers in the state Senate approved banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most-stringent abortion restrictions.
The so-called “heartbeat bill” approved Tuesday would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat.
Similar measures elsewhere have faced legal challenges, and detractors in Ohio fear such legislation would lead to a costly fight in the courts. Opponents are predicting it will be found unconstitutional if it becomes law.
The measure now goes back to the Republican-controlled Ohio House, where it has been approved in earlier attempts that failed to gain traction in the Senate.
Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move would be constitutional.
State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.
Asked if he expects the proposal to survive a legal challenge, Faber said: “I think it has a better chance than it did before.”
The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger but not in cases of rape or incest, he said.
State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, voted against the bill. Manning said she believes abortion needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis and the legislation passed Monday is unconstitutional.
“I voted against it for several reasons,” she said. “Number one, something like this shouldn’t be done in amendment. Number two, it’s unconstitutional. It’s been overturned in other states, so why are we doing this?”
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the move would block access to abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director.
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, states were permitted to restrict abortions after viability — the point when the fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving under normal conditions outside the uterus. The ruling offered no legal definition of viability, saying it could range between 24 and 28 weeks into a pregnancy.
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