Pro-Choice Advocates Are Gearing Up To Defend Women's Rights Following Ohio's Heartbeat Bill

"Let’s be clear, these bills are a blatant attempt by the Ohio Legislature to ban abortion."

This week, Ohio passed a bill revising state laws on child abuse and neglect. Less than 90 minutes to go before lawmakers cast their vote on the bill, Republicans slipped in an amendment to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, and with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The underhanded move makes Ohio poised to carry the most restrictive abortion law in the country. 

The heartbeat abortion bill sparked national outrage. Critics say the legislation essentially bans abortions in Ohio as most women don't know they're pregnant at six weeks.

"This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients," Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, told A Plus. "Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable."

The bill is unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling allows abortions until "fetal viability," about 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Republican lawmakers have tried to pass some form of the heartbeat bill for years but have always failed; but now with Donald Trump as president-elect, they say they feel emboldened by his upcoming federal and Supreme court appointments to push anti-abortion laws, Cincinnati.com reported. 

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Gov. John Kasich, often considered the most moderate of Republican presidential candidates in the past year, has a woeful record on abortion rights. Kasich has expressed concern in the past of the heartbeat bill's unconstitutionality, and similar legislation passed in Arkansas and North Dakota were ruled unconstitutional by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, their appeals declined hearing from SCOTUS. But with a potential shift in political ideology in the Supreme Court, abortion rights in the U.S. could very well deteriorate — and fast.

But the heartbeat bill isn't even the last of Ohio's Republican lawmakers drive against abortion rights. They've have another bill lined up that would ban abortion at 20 weeks that has a greater chance at success than the 6-week ban. About a dozens states have passed a 20-week abortion ban (also unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade) and they've been struck down by federal courts in Arizona and Idaho, the Columbus Dispatch reported. 

Gabriel Mann, the communications manager at NARAL's Ohio branch, told A Plus that sending Kasich the two pieces of legislation back-to-back is a cunning political strategy. 

"We believe John Kasich's plan is to attempt to look moderate by vetoing one abortion ban while signing another," Mann said, calling both these bills "dangerous restrictions" to prevent women from accessing abortion services. 

Another opponent of the heartbeat bill is anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life, if only due to difference in approach. Its president, Mike Gonidakis, told NBC News that anti-abortion advocates have to be "realistic," and cautioned against overreaching, even in light of Trump's election. "We have to be patient and strategic," he added about the Supreme Court's ideological leaning. "If the court was 7-2 pro-life, I would say, let's do a ban at conception. Lord willing, it will flip."

As Trump's presidency looms, abortion rights advocates have a tough road of resistance ahead. With more than a month to go until his inauguration, anti-abortionists have already begun pushing their hardline agenda. In states like Ohio, where many women have to drive to Michigan to access abortion because nearly half the state's abortion providers have shuttered, as well as in Texas, the consequences are dire. 

"If signed into law, these bills would force women to travel long distances and cross state lines to access abortion. For many women, the expense and time these restrictions would force upon them would make access impossible," Iris E. Harvey, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said in a press release. "Let's be clear, these bills are a blatant attempt by the Ohio Legislature to ban abortion. I urge Gov. Kasich to veto both bills."

Asked what women and advocates in other states can do to help, Mann said: "Donate to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio."

Cover image via Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

You can donate to the Ohio offices of NARAL here, and Planned Parenthood here.

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