Ohio governor OKs 20-week abortion ban, nixes heartbeat bill

Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a news conference in New York, Thursday, March 31, 2016. Kasich is convinced he can swing hundreds of delegates to swing his way at a contested summer convention by assuring that only he can usher his party back into the White House.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Tuesday banning abortions after 20-weeks.

He also vetoed stricter provisions in a separate measure that would have barred the procedure at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.

Kasich acted on both proposals the same day they landed on this desk.

The so-called heartbeat bill would have prohibited most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy — or before many women know they are pregnant. Its provisions cleared the Republican-led Legislature during a lame-duck flurry last week after being tucked into separate legislation.

Similar measures elsewhere have faced legal challenges, and detractors in Ohio feared such legislation would lead to a costly fight in the courts. Opponents predicted it would be found unconstitutional, a concern Kasich shared.

Kasich, an abortion-rights opponent, chose instead to sign off on a 20-week ban similar to those now in effect in 15 states and blocked from enforcement in two others. The measures are based on the assertion that fetuses can feel pain then. Opponents have challenged the “pain-capable” characterization as scientifically unsound. Ohio lawmakers rejected a Democratic amendment that would have added exceptions for rape and incest.

Ohio lawmakers still have the option to override his veto. Doing so would require a three-fifths majority of each chamber.

The developments in Ohio are a prelude to a broad offensive to be launched in January by abortion-rights opponents emboldened by the election success of Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

GOP lawmakers in numerous states — including Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky — plan to push for new anti-abortion legislation. Their efforts are being supported by a national anti-abortion group, Americans United for Life, which released a report Tuesday contending that many abortion clinics are in violation of state health and safety standards.

In Congress, Republicans are expected to advance legislation banning most abortions after 20 weeks and halting federal funding for Planned Parenthood as long as it performs abortions. The president-elect has pledged to support both measures

The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate acted with initial caution on the divisive heartbeat bill before passing it suddenly last week.

Abortion-rights groups oppose it and Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest anti-abortion group, has remained neutral because of constitutional questions.

The idea of its backers was to spark a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks, that would ultimately outlaw abortion nationwide.

Also on Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a law requiring abortion clinics to have doctors who have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their facility.

The court ruled that measure, which requires doctors with admitting privileges to be present for abortions, violates both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed it into law in 2014, but courts had blocked it from going into effect. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down a similar provision in Texas.

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Associated Press writer David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

 

“As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life, and I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life. Certain provisions that were amended into Am. Sub. HB 493, however, are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion.

Similar legislation enacted in two other states has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal judges, and the Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. Because the federal courts are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion, the amendment to Am. Sub. HB 493 will be struck down. The State of Ohio will be the losing party in that 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. Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.” – Ohio Governor John Kasich

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