Ohio’s ‘Heartbeat Law’ Effectively Outlaws Abortions in the State

Lawmakers in Ohio passed two abortion bills last week that would make the state one the most restrictive in the country. The bills, awaiting Kasich’s signature, ban abortions after 20 weeks and make the procedure illegal once the baby’s heartbeat is detected.

The controversial laws have been met with criticism from pro-choice advocates and those who argue that the legislation may be unconstitutional.

Nicknamed the “Heartbeat Law,” abortions would be prohibited after a heartbeat is detected in utero, around 6 weeks in most cases. Because every pregnancy and woman is different, and because technology varies from one healthcare facility to another, the bill would inadvertently set a different standard for each woman.

The Roe v. Wade case (1973) ruled that women have the privacy right to reproductive self-determination, as CNN calls it. The Planned Parenthood v. Casey case (1992) found that abortion was not only legal, but protected under the constitution until “fetal viability,” or until the fetus is able to survive outside of the womb. Typically, a fetus is viable outside the womb at around 24 weeks.

Another abortion law, Senate Bill 127, on Kasich’s desk bans the procedure after the 20-week mark. Under previous law, abortions were illegal after 20 weeks unless a doctor found the fetus to be unviable outside the womb. Under the new law, the only exception would be if the woman’s life was at serious risk.

Senate Bill 127 effectively eliminates the viability test.

Some Ohio legislators have criticized bills.

Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor said, “It’s not about the babies; it’s about the attack on women.”

Fedor had proposed exceptions for victims of incest and rape, but the House rejected the proposal and passed the bill last Thursday in a 64-29 vote.

ACLU criticized the law, stating that it would “effectively eliminate all options for women without the financial resources to travel for abortion care.”