Ohio state legislature is first to move on emboldened anti-choice agenda


In another sign that anti-choice advocates are feeling empowered by Donald Trump's election, the Ohio legislature just passed a bill banning abortion as early as six weeks, explicitly because they feel it has a better chance under a Trump presidency — and a changing Supreme Court.

Encouraged by an incoming Donald Trump presidency, Ohio has become the first state to pass draconian anti-choice measures in a renewed effort to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. As a last-minute, lame duck salvo, Ohio legislators tacked a fetal heartbeat abortion ban onto a child abuse prevention bill.

This amendment would ban abortion once the fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It often takes a person at least that long to even learn they are pregnant. As a result, a fetal heartbeat ban is effectively a wholesale ban on abortion.

Previous efforts to pass this kind of ban have failed because advocates on both sides argued that it would be found unconstitutional. Such a law, they reasoned, would not even make it to the Supreme Court. Until now, those suspicions have been confirmed, as the Supreme Court declined to hear a 2015 case out of Arkansas on a ban on abortion after 12 weeks.

In fact, current Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, OH, had previously warned against a fetal heartbeat bill, saying, "We believe that the heartbeat bill could lead to striking down laws that have been passed and upheld... certainly we think the heartbeat bill moves the cause of anti-abortion back, not forward." Ohio's current laws, which are some of the most restrictive in the nation, include mandatory waiting periods and counseling for people seeking abortions, as well as a ban on abortions past 24 weeks.

But, as Faber now tells reporters, times have changed. Namely, Trump is now President-elect, with a Supreme Court vacancy awaiting him. Following the passage of the six-week abortion ban on December 6th, Faber said: “[Trump has] changed the dynamic and there was a consensus in our caucus to move forward.”

The decision is now in the hands of Republican Governor John Kasich, a man who has signed 17 anti-choice measures in his nearly six-year tenure. Kasich could do a line-item veto for the amendment, but, given his record and a 20-week ban waiting in the wings, whether he would make that choice is anything but certain.

Rachel Thomas of EMILY's List told Shareblue, however, the legislation is so radical he — and his party — can expect political blowback if it is passed:

Republicans have made it clear they don't believe women should be able to make their own health care decisions – and this bill in Ohio takes these efforts to an extreme level of danger. This type of overreach will come back to haunt Republicans as they push an anti-woman agenda at every level.

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, further laid out what is at stake:

Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe, legal healthcare in her community. This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients. One in three women choose to have an abortion in their lifetime, and seven in ten Americans support legal access to abortion care. Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable.

Clearly this bill’s supporters are hoping that President-elect Trump will have the chance to pack the US Supreme Court with justices that are poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade. We must prevent that from happening to protect women’s lives.

The fight will be an uphill battle, as legislators are emboldened by a president-elect who has promised to appoint ultra-conservative justices to the Supreme Court. One thing is certain: Trump's election is already changing how Republican lawmakers use their bully pulpit to restrict reproductive rights.