Ohio has passed a bill that would ban abortions as soon as the fetal heartbeat can be heard at about 1.5 months. However, most women do not even know they are pregnant until 2 months have passed.
Abortion has always been a contentious issue in the US, particularly since the landmark court case Roe vs. Wade, and will likely remain so in the years to come. However, with Republicans and conservatives now a majority in national and state legislatures, the current legal status of abortions as well as their ease of access could very easily change within the next few years. Ohio is already challenging the current system in the wake of last month’s election as its state legislature just passed a “heartbeat” abortion bill. This bill, if signed into law by Ohio’s governor, would ban any and all abortions once a fetus’s heartbeat can be heard, which usually occurs at around six weeks into a pregnancy. After Roe vs. Wade in 1973 and abortion was legalized, states were permitted to restrict abortions after the fetus became viable, which normally ranges between 24 to 28 weeks. The bill offers no exception for cases of rape or incest, though it would allow abortions to take place if the mother’s life was in danger.
Critics of the bill have said that this bill is a clever way for Ohio Republicans to essentially outlaw abortion within the state while avoiding restricting its practice outright. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio argued that most women do not know they are pregnant until they miss two periods, when the pregnancy can be in its eighth week or even later. Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director, said that “this bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told BuzzFeed that they plan to fight back against the ban, if the bill is signed into law. Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, has not said whether or not he will sign the bill though he previously expressed concern that it could be considered unconstitutional.
Since Trump was elected last month, state legislatures around the country have introduced legislation restricting abortions, including a bill in Indiana that would ban them entirely. Some lawmakers have said that their decision to introduce such legislation coincides with the hope that Trump will install a conservative judge on the Supreme Court who could tip the court’s balance and overturn Roe vs. Wade entirely. Abortion activists, not to be outdone, have filed lawsuits in several states as they look to overturn abortion restrictions, which they claim is unconstitutional due to the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision. Whether Governor Kasich ultimately signs the bill or not, the legal status of abortion will be a major national issue in the year to come as anti-abortion politicians seem to have the advantage for the first time in years.
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