Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” Was Just Signed Into Law…So What Does That Mean?

On Thursday afternoon, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a fetal heartbeat bill that slid through the Ohio General Assembly with very little opposition. Unless the bill is deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge within 90 days, it will be enacted on July 1.

So, what exactly does the passage of this “heartbeat bill” entail? In direct correlation with its name, the measure is a ban on all abortions after any trace of a fetal heartbeat can be detected — a six-week period of time that does not even allow for most women to realize they may be pregnant.

Not only is this limited amount of time already incredibly restrictive when it comes to women being aware of pregnancies, but when taking into consideration the average wait time between scheduling an appointment and receiving an abortion (about a week), having this procedure done safely and legally becomes nearly impossible. The bill is one of the strictest ever even proposed, let alone enacted, as it outlaws all abortions after this six-week period of pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. The only situation in which an exception may be made is to save the life of the woman. 

Ohio now joins the likes of Mississippi and Kentucky as one of five states to enact the six-week abortion ban (Georgia stands poised to be the sixth, if the pending bill is signed by Governor Kemp by May 10). Similar to those states, however, the measure will not go unopposed; the ACLU of Ohio, alongside other pro-choice groups, has issued a statement ensuring a lawsuit in an attempt to block the law, the constitutionality of which has been called into question time and time again.

This promise to sue, however, has only fired up conservatives. Despite opponents of the measure arguing that it is a direct violation of Roe v. Wade, a lawsuit is exactly what many anti-abortion groups and advocates are hoping for. With a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, Republicans are excited by the prospect of carrying a lawsuit all the way to the federal level. Though it seems counterintuitive for them to hope for the explosion of a case that will likely deem this Ohio bill unconstitutional, Republicans are jumping at the potential opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade with the help of their Supreme Court majority. 

The passage of the “heartbeat bill” in Ohio, though not the first instance in a state, holds special significance because of the newly Republican-leaning Supreme Court. Democrats and Republicans alike have begun to realize the impending possibility of Roe v. Wade being challenged nationally. Many red states have begun to pass “trigger laws” in anticipation of the same phenomenon they believe this Ohio bill could produce on the national level. These trigger laws are measures that will only be put in place in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, as they completely ban abortions and are currently indisputably illegal. 

Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, while aware of the current fragility surrounding women’s reproductive rights, have collectively stayed confident in the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade. Despite continuous attacks on abortion rights nationwide, there remain countless advocates for the availability of safe and legal abortions: a right that, although infringed upon in some states, many hope will stand strong for generations to come.

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