Ohio impact: ‘Heartbeat Bill’ is now law, attorney general says

The overturning of Roe v. Wade allows Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” to go into effect, outlawing abortions after five or six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Enforcement of that bill, passed in 2019, had been held up by a federal court injunction against prosecutors in the few Ohio counties that have abortion clinics, including Montgomery and Hamilton. The only exemption in the “Heartbeat Bill” is for cases in which the mother’s health is seriously at risk.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office filed an emergency motion to dissolve the injunction on Friday morning. The injunction was dissolved, Yost posted Friday evening on social media.

“After (Friday’s Supreme Court ruling), abortion laws are subject to the same standard as any other law: rational basis,” the motion says. “And the law here satisfies that easy-to-meet standard for the same reason as the Mississippi law at issue in (the case ruled on Friday by the Supreme Court): it rationally promotes the State’s legitimate interest in ‘protecting the life of the unborn.’”

» THE RULING: Supreme Court overturns abortion, returns decision to states

Separate from that bill, abortion already is illegal in Ohio past 20 weeks’ gestation, or 22 weeks past the woman’s last menstrual period.

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

Senate President Matt Huffman said early this month that when the court’s final decision is known state legislative leaders will decide whether to reconvene this summer to pass more anti-abortion legislation.

The primary bill under consideration is House Bill 598, sponsored by state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland. Designed as a “trigger ban,” to outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned, Schmidt’s bill would make it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. Currently it does not include exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health.

In May, anticipating overturn and in reaction to Schmidt’s bill, Ohio Democrats announced they will seek a state constitutional amendment to permanently legalize abortion in Ohio. They acknowledged they don’t have nearly enough votes to meet the three-fifths threshold in both houses of the legislature to place that amendment on a statewide ballot, but framed the move as precursor to a long-term campaign for a constitutional referendum.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley, former mayor of Dayton, has said she would work to keep abortion accessible to Ohioans and would veto any bill that restricts abortion access.

Republican incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine’s campaign website touts him as “the most pro-life governor in Ohio history,” highlighting his signature of the “Heartbeat Bill” and the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” The latter, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, expands the first-degree felony definition of “abortion manslaughter” to include failing to try to keep an infant alive born after an attempted abortion, and creates a third-degree felony for failing to file a monthly “child survival form” for any fetus delivered alive after an abortion attempt.

An amendment to the bill, saying abortion clinics operating under a variance from state law cannot have emergency service agreements with any doctor who is connected to a public institution, targets two of the state’s six abortion clinics: the ones in Kettering and Cincinnati. The amendment’s intent is to make their operation impossible.

Of the 20,605 abortions in Ohio in 2020, nearly half were chemically induced non-surgical abortions. There were 10,792 surgical abortions performed in Ohio in 2020, according to the state Department of Health’s annual report.

The clinics in Montgomery and Hamilton counties provided 31.8% of those surgical procedures, according to the report: 1,570 in Montgomery and 2,408 in Hamilton.

Of the statewide total, 98% of all abortions were performed by 18 weeks’ gestation. Only 0.5% took place beyond 20 weeks.

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