Last week, the Ohio state legislature passed a bill that would ban abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy. The bill makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest – only cases where the mother’s life is at stake. The bill is known as a “heartbeat” bill because a fetal heartbeat can first be detected about six weeks after conception. If the bill becomes law, it will be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
First though, it must be signed by Ohio’s historically moderate governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich. A few months ago, even the bill’s staunchest supporters didn’t expect it to have a chance in the state legislature. Following the election of Donald Trump, however, the anti-abortion movement has gained a new surge in momentum. Now, abortion rights activists are concerned that even a moderate like John Kasich might be swayed into signing the heartbeat bill into law.
Because the heartbeat bill violates the standards on abortion legislation set by the Supreme Court, there’s a good chance that Kasich will not sign the bill. After all, many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant at six weeks. But even if he doesn’t sign the six-week ban, he may still sign another 20-week ban on abortion that was also approved by the state legislature last week. Like the heartbeat bill, this 20-week ban would make no exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
If the 20-week ban becomes a law, it will almost certainly face a fight in the Supreme Court as well. But whether or not either of these bills becomes law, the troubling fact remains that a six-week ban on abortion is being seriously considered in a relatively moderate swing state. Following a number of important abortion rights victories in the Supreme Court earlier this year, this is a sobering reminder that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to protect women’s reproductive rights in America.