While describing himself as a champion for the sanctity of life, Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have forbidden abortions once a fetal heartbeat could be detected. The second-term Republican, however, did sign into law a second bill, a GOP-backed lame-duck measure banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — providing an exception for saving the mother’s life but none for rape or incest. The Heartbeat Bill’s foremost champion, Janet Porter of Faith2Action, immediately denounced Kasich’s “betrayal of life” and promised a campaign to find the necessary votes in the House to override the governor’s veto. The Senate’s vote was veto-proof on what would have been the nation’s most stringent abortion law. In his veto message, Kasich said the Heartbeat Bill, which would have forbid abortions at about six weeks into pregnancy, was clearly unconstitutional under U.S. Supreme Court rulings and would have resulted in an expensive — and losing — court battle. “I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that Senate Bill 127 (the 20-week ban) is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life,” Kasich said. The new law forbids termination of “a human pregnancy of a pain-capable unborn child.” Abortion-rights supporters objected to both bans, while Ohio Right to Life members, who opposed the Heartbeat ban, welcomed what they viewed as the more-reasonable and more-likely-to-be-upheld restriction.
Some context, from The New York Times:
With the governor’s signature, Ohio becomes the 18th state to adopt a 20-week abortion ban, though two of the bans — in Arizona and Idaho — have been struck down as unconstitutional by federal courts. Legal experts say Ohio’s 20-week ban is far more likely to survive a constitutional challenge than the heartbeat bill.
Barring court action, the law will take effect in 90 days, but a legal challenge appears inevitable. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which said on Tuesday that the measure was “unconstitutional and will harm women and families,” was expected to file a suit to block it.
“There’s no way we’re going to take this lying down,” said Gabriel Mann, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice Ohio, an advocacy group. “It’s too horrific of a restriction for women who are facing medical complications and situations where they need an abortion around that 20-week period.”
About 20,000 abortions are performed in Ohio each year, Mr. Mann said, and fewer than 2 percent occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
While the state keeps track of the number of abortions, it does not track the reasons for termination. Abortion opponents argue that one abortion is one too many.
Mr. Kasich’s actions come as abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents around the country are gearing up for intense battles in the wake of the election of Donald J. Trump to the White House. Mr. Trump’s victory has changed the political winds around abortion politics, emboldening the anti-abortion movement.
Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times