- The Ohio state legislature is considering two bills that would ban and criminalize abortion in the state.
- The Ohio House passed a bill to ban abortion after six weeks, which Gov. John Kasich says he will veto.
- The House’s health committee is considering legislation that would punish abortion providers and patients with life in prison, and even the death penalty.
- A litigator with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project told INSIDER the six-week ban is “Blanton unconstitutional,” and will likely be struck down in court.
On Thursday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill to ban patients from obtaining abortions after six weeks. Republican Governor John Kasich vetoed a similar measure in 2016 – and reproductive rights advocates say it’s a clear attempt to get the Supreme Court to rule on abortion restrictions.
Passed by a vote of 58-43 and now headed to the Ohio Senate, the legislation would charge doctors with felonies if they preformed abortions after a heartbeat could be detected, which typically occurs around five or six weeks of pregnancy.
Gov. Kasich, who leaves office in January, told reporters over the weekend that he would veto the six-week ban again if it came to his desk before the end of his term. Reproductive rights advocates argue the legislation would criminalize abortion before many women even know they’re pregnant.
Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project called the bill – and others like it – “blatantly unconstitutional” in a phone interview with INSIDER.
“A state can’t ban abortion, which is what this has effectively done, and it would be struck down by the courts, certainly in the lower courts,” Amiri said. “This is a direct attack on Roe v. Wade, this is an attempt by the other side to overrule the constitutional right to abortion.”
Meanwhile, the Ohio House’s health committee is considering an even more severe abortion bill, HB 565, which would go a step further to designate fetuses as “unborn humans” statewide, allowing for women and doctors who receive and provide abortions to be punished with life in prison, and even the death penalty.
That bill, however, has not gained much traction since lawmakers introduced it in March, and is unlikely to be voted on this year.
Amiri explained the six-week ban is unlikely to hold up legally, since Roe v. Wade protects abortion to the point of viability, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Similar six-week bans in North Dakota and Iowa were either struck down by federal courts or blocked by state courts for violating either Roe, or state-level abortion protections.
After Justice Brett Kavanaugh was nominated in July, legal experts told INSIDER that while it’s unlikely for a Supreme Court even with a 5-4 conservative majority to fully overturn Roe v. Wade, the Court could uphold less extreme restrictions on the procedure.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen until the Supreme Court takes one of these cases. There are 13 cases in the pipeline right now. Whether the Supreme Court is going to take up one of those cases and what they’re going to say is unknown, but we’re deeply concerned.”
In a Thursday statement, Amiri warned that the Ohio legislature’s recent actions are a “harbinger of things to come” when it comes to states restricting abortion access.
“We’re concerned this is the first of several states that will try to ban abortion, which is why people need to stay vigilant,” Amiri added. “I was a little surprised that Ohio was so quick to do so, and it makes me deeply concerned that other states will be acting quickly when the legislatures come back in session in 2019 in other states.”
Amiri said she has just one message for the Ohio state government if they pass the six-week ban: “we’ll see you in court.”