More Ohio action on abortion laws likely to wait until fall

Ohio’s Republican elected officials reacted quickly Friday to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, praising the end of federal abortion protection.

Gov. Mike DeWine swiftly signed an executive order allowing Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill,” which bans abortion after five or six weeks’ gestation, to go into effect immediately.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said legislators would wait for the ruling to decide on possibly holding a special summer session to pass more anti-abortion bills.

But now, with laws already in place severely restricting abortion in Ohio, legislators appear likely to wait for the General Assembly to reconvene as scheduled after the Nov. 8 general election to consider further moves.

Any further abortion-related legislation or hearings are more likely to come in November or December, according to John Fortney, director of communications for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus.

“The Senate will conduct a detailed policy analysis of the Supreme Court opinion to determine the path forward for additional legislation that would work through the committee process toward the end of the year,” he said via email.

House Speaker Bob Cupp welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe.

“The process of reviewing the decision is underway, including what steps should be taken at the state level and the timeline for doing so,” he said in a news release. “We will be working closely with Governor DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost and our colleagues in the Ohio Senate on this matter.”

House Majority Press Secretary Aaron Mulvey said Tuesday no further information on the subject was available.

On Friday, citing the overturn of Roe, DeWine issued an executive order allowing the Ohio Department of Health to immediately set regulations for the implementation of Senate Bill 23, known as the “Heartbeat Bill.” It passed in 2019 but was blocked by a federal court. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett lifted that injunction following the Dobbs decision.

DeWine’s press secretary Dan Tierney said Tuesday that a summer session does not appear to be under consideration, since legislative leaders have said they don’t expect to reconvene until November.

Ohio legislators began preparing for the potential overturn of Roe even before the May leak of a draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court indicating that would happen.

The primary bills under consideration are “trigger bans,” introduced to outlaw abortion contingent on the overturn of Roe.

House Bill 598, sponsored by state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. Currently it does not include exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health. Introduced in March, HB 598 has had three hearings in the House Government Oversight Committee but has not come up for a vote.

Its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 123, was also introduced in March. Sponsored by state Sens. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, and Sandra O’Brien, R-Ashtabula, SB 123 has had two hearings in the Senate Health Committee.

Under previous laws, abortion is already illegal in Ohio past 20 weeks’ gestation, or 22 weeks past the woman’s last menstrual period.

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