Ohio sixth state to pass “Heartbeat Bill” banning abortions after six weeks

Ohio became the sixth U.S. state to pass what is known as the “Human Rights Protection Act” on April, 2019. Also known as the “heartbeat bill,” this prohibits abortions after six weeks. This is sooner than most women even realize they are pregnant. The bill makes an exception when the life of the mother is in danger, but not for cases of sexual assault or incest.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio announced on their website that they intend to file a lawsuit challenging the Senate Bill (SB23). They plan to argue that the bill is a complete violation of Roe v. Wade, a court case that led to the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortions in the first term of pregnancy. In regards to the new bill, Elizabeth Watson of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated “we will not stop fighting until everyone in Ohio can make their own personal decisions based on what is best for them.” Further details about the lawsuit will be made available on the ACLU website.

The bill will go into effect 90 days from the date signed if found constitutional. No six-week bans have actually gone into effect in the US, but Ohio is one of 16 states where a six-week abortion ban has been either filed, moved or signed into law in 2019, according to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Anti abortion groups in Ohio are praising the bill and oneorhganization, Faith 2 Action, which identifying itself as "the birthplace of the heartbeat bill," has put up a website banner saying "Victory" in big red letters. Mike Gonidakis, President of Ohio Right to Life a local anti abortion group, praised the bill in saying “Pro-life Ohio thanks Governor DeWine for taking a courageous stand on behalf of unborn children with beating hearts.” On their website, Ohio Right to Life states that “ORTL works through legislation and education to promote and defend innocent human life from conception to natural death.”

As a young woman and university student I was dismayed to learn about the passing of SB23, as were my friends and classmates. We were shocked when we realized that the law takes effect before many of us would even have realized we were pregnant. As university students with busy schedules, we live in a high pressure and stress inducing environment where a late period is often dismissed as a result of stress or lack of proper eating habits. We also know that were were forced to carry a child to term, the likelihood of us finishing our education in the manner we planned is slim to none. An unexpected pregnancy can be wonderful but as young women with big dreams for our careers, this bill would be severely limiting. We are dismayed and afraid for the women our age and in our situation, living in those six states which have passed State Bill 23.

It has been overwhelmingly demonstrated that the criminalization of abortions does not stop abortions from being performed. Instead, it drives women to unsafe and occasionally deadly measures, according to the World Health Organization. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, abortions constitute 8-11% of maternal deaths in regions where abortion is illegal. A woman who does not want or cannot have a child at this stage in her life, will not have this child. Instead they will put their lives at risk to obtain an abortion which, like any medical procedure should not be performed by anyone who is not a licensed professional situated in a safe and sterile environment. In the current political climate, laws limiting access to abortion will only become more strict. A recent texas bill which failed to pass, aimed to seek the death penalty in abortion cases.

Today, I am heartbroken and dismayed by the actions of the United States government. However, I find hope in knowing that there are organizations working to fight this new bill, as well as working to protect the constitutional rights of American women to reproductive care.