The Ohio state Senate last week came one vote short of overriding a veto by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on a bill that would have protected babies from abortion after a detectable heartbeat. Kasich, a Republican, said he vetoed the bill for the second time in two years because it would saddle the state with a costly court battle and would ultimately be declared unconstitutional.
On the same day Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill he signed a measure making “dismemberment abortion” a fourth-degree felony for abortionists.
During the dismemberment procedure, most commonly used during the second trimester, abortionists kill and extract an unborn child by removing it piecemeal from the mother’s womb. The new law, which goes into effect in March, bans the practice unless the unborn child is already dead, with exceptions for rape and danger to the mother’s life.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement that his group is “immensely grateful” to Kasich and the legislature for the success of the bill: “Ohioans can sleep easier tonight knowing that the horrendous practice of dismemberment abortions is behind us.”
Ohio becomes the 10th state to pass legislation to block the practice, but only two other states—Mississippi and West Virginia—have been able to retain their laws after pro-abortion groups filed suit. Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas have all faced legal challenges to their dismemberment bans, with some legal battles ongoing. Earlier this month, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case defending its dismemberment abortion protections.
Steven Aden, chief legal officer at Americans United for Life, told me he thinks Ohio’s law will probably go the way of many others. He anticipates a legal challenge by an abortion advocacy group and for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike it down.
“The citizens of Ohio are to be applauded for their zeal in protecting innocent human life,” Aden said. “I wish them all the very best, but we think there are better vehicles that will survive a court scrutiny, and actually be enacted to protect innocent life, like 20-week limits, prenatal non-discrimination act bills, human fetal remains provisions and things like that.”
He added that the U.S. Supreme Court is not likely “ready to go this far this fast at this time” in considering a dismemberment abortion case. He also said the high court would essentially have to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision for a detectable heartbeat law to stand.
Kasich has a strong pro-life record, and last year signed a law protecting the unborn from abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But he agrees with Aden on the hearbeat bill, noting in a statement that although he has “worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of Human life,” the heartbeat bill runs counter to Supreme Court precedent and would have cost Ohio taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Ohio’s next legislative session could revive the heartbeat bill, and if it does, incoming Gov. Mike DeWine, also a Republican, said he would sign it.