It’s taken eight years and many hours of testimony, but the six-week abortion ban known as the “Heartbeat Bill” has been signed into law.
About 24 hours after the Ohio General Assembly passed the controversial legislation, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, Gov. Mike DeWine delivered on his campaign promise and signed it into law.
Former Gov. John Kasich, also a Republican, vetoed the measure twice, saying it was clearly unconstitutional. Ohio ACLU legal director Freda Levenson says her organization will file a lawsuit against the ban soon. Two similar bans have already been blocked or overturned by federal courts.
DeWine says he knows this law, renamed the “Human Rights Protection Act,” will likely face a court challenge.
“The purpose of this bill is really to have a vehicle for the United States Supreme Court so that if it should be ready to do so, it can revisit some of its prior rulings," DeWine said.
Anti-abortion groups have explicitly stated the purpose of the “Heartbeat Bill” is to overturn the 1972 Supreme Court ruling “Roe v. Wade.”
Ohio’s legislation is not alone; a handful of other states have passed similar bills, although judges in Kentucky and Iowa have prevented them from taking effect.
Regardless of what happens with Ohio’s bill, the sting in the legislature is palpable. Many Democrats were adamantly opposed to the bill and spoke out against it repeatedly in news conferences, campaign events and on the floor when it was being considered.
Those experiences were a catalyst for the creation of the new Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus.
“We are going to try to legislate and create an atmosphere in which people can trust women, especially black women, to take care of their bodies because right now, women are not trusted," explains state Rep. Janine Boyd (D- Cleveland).
Republican House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), who received support from Democrats to win that position, doesn’t think the fight over the restrictive abortion ban has permanently soured his up-to-now favorable relationship with his Democratic members.
“You know we have talked about this and we know there are some issues where we don’t see eye to eye,” Householder said. “And we’ve talked a lot about the 95 percent of the time that we are going to agree, maybe not on the direction, maybe not what we want to do as a state, but 95 percent of the time, we are going to be out there working on things that… you know, jobs packages, education issues, things like that… and the 5 percent that are issues that are volatile issues that Republicans and Democrats traditionally don’t agree upon, we can’t dwell on those issues.”
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Ashtabula) said lawmakers will likely be dealing with another abortion issue in the near future.
“I do anticipate there being another ‘Born Alive Infant Protection Act,’ as you saw a few weeks ago when we passed a resolution encouraging Congress to vote on the federal proposal, we actually passed unanimously in this chamber,” Obhof said. “And I anticipate legislation on that subject to be introduced sometime within the next few weeks.”
Obhof said there is some other abortion-related legislation that his members might want to bring forward in the future as well. The Ohio Senate recently passed a bill requiring the cremation or burial of fetal remains, which is now being considered in the Ohio House.