Legal challenge to Ohio’s 20-week abortion ban is uncertain

A pro-life activist stands in front of pro-choice activists with the National Organization For Women at a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. The vigil was held to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
A pro-life activist stands in front of pro-choice activists with the National Organization For Women at a vigil outside the U.S. Supreme Court on January 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. The vigil was held to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Republican lawmakers are close to having the votes to override Gov. Kasich’s veto of ‘heartbeat’ bill

As Ohio lawmakers consider returning to Columbus to override the governor’s veto of the so-called “heartbeat bill,” the 20-week abortion ban may be safe from a legal challenge – at least for now.

RELATED: House may seek to override Gov. Kasich veto on heartbeat bill

Abortion-rights lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice and the Center for Reproductive Rights are weighing whether to challenge 20-week abortion ban laws put in place in half a dozen states.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

One veto, one signed.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“It is not so clear cut on this one,” said Christine Link, the long-time director of the ALCU of Ohio and an expert on reproductive rights litigation. Link said Ohio’s 20-week ban law is likely to take effect before lawyers from several agencies decide on a legal strategy. “There is so much at risk. Give the court a wobbly case and they might use it to broaden restrictions.”

ExploreRELATED: Gov Kasich vetoes heartbeat bill, signs 20-week abortion ban

During the lame duck session last week, Ohio lawmakers passed two abortion ban bills — a 20-week ban and a ban of abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six-weeks into a pregnancy. Gov. John Kasich this week used his line-item veto power to reject the six-week ban.

The Ohio House leadership is considering whether to call lawmakers back to Columbus to override that veto. The House concurred to the Senate amendments to the bill, which included the six-week abortion ban, on a 56-39 vote. Four lawmakers were absent.

Sixty votes are required for an override of the governor’s veto.

“I believe in the heartbeat bill and I would go along with an override,” said state Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, one of the four House members who missed the concurrence vote last week. He said he was contacted by the majority whip — who counts votes in advance to determine if something will pass.

Facebook: Follow our Columbus reporter Laura Bischoff for the latest on this developing story

State Rep. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, said “I heard there is going to be an attempt (to override the veto) but I don’t know if there is enough people to do it….I heard the seven Republicans (who voted against the bill) are hard no’s and they won’t flip.”

As the holidays approach, Maag said, “It’s a big hill to climb — just getting people back (to Columbus.)”

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said even if lawmakers don’t override the veto, they could return in January to pass the six-week ban again in another bill — and do so with enough votes to be veto-proof. “I don’t rule anything out.”

Fewer abortions were performed in Ohio in 2015 than at any time since the state began keeping records in 1976, according to an Ohio Department of Health report.

The report shows that the steady decline that has been occurring over the past 15 years continued in 2015, with a slight drop to 20,976 abortions reported in the state. Last year, 52 percent of the terminations occurred at nine weeks or less gestation. Last year, 145 abortions were performed after 20 weeks gestation.

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