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Kasich signs 20-week abortion ban, vetoes heartbeat bill

Ohio governor opts to support strategy most likely to survive a court challenge

Ohio Gov. John Kasich Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster, File

Kasich signs 20-week abortion ban, vetoes heartbeat bill

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban on Tuesday but vetoed a section of another bill that would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Under pressure from two pro-life organizations to sign both bills, Kasich sided with Ohio Right to Life’s incremental approach to ending abortion, calling the heartbeat bill too risky.

Ohio currently forbids abortion after 24 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. The 20-week ban cites the ability of babies to feel pain at 20 weeks gestation and includes just one exception—for a maternal medical emergency.

“I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life,” Kasich said in a statement.

After vetoing the heartbeat bill, Kasich affirmed his loyalty to the pro-life movement but said the tighter restriction ran “clearly contrary” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion. The heartbeat bill likely would lose a challenge in court, as already happened in two other states, Kasich noted.

“As the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers,” he said. “Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.”

Ohio Right to Life applauded the move to put Ohio on the growing list of states with 20-week abortion bans.

In a press conference Tuesday, the group’s president praised Kasich for his “strategic vision on how to end abortion in Ohio.”

“Passing one law simply won’t end abortion, but passing the right strategic laws, changing hearts and minds, will help us ultimately win this battle,” Mike Gonidakis said. “It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m sure he wrestled with this, because he is as pro-life as I am.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio had vowed to tackle the heartbeat ban immediately in court, Gonidakis said, adding the group wasn’t as certain it would challenge the 20-week ban.

In a statement, ACLU senior policy director Mike Brickner said both bans “only hurt women and their families and waste taxpayer dollars by defending laws that federal courts have routinely declared unconstitutional.”

But Gonidakis expressed confidence Ohio’s 20-week ban will stand up to legal challenges, noting Nebraska’s 20-week ban has endured since Gov. Dave Heineman signed it in 2010.

Though Kasich vetoed the heartbeat bill, it could still see a legislative override in the House with a three-fifths vote. Cincinnati Right to Life president Paula Westwood told me her organization, while it supports the 20-week abortion ban, hopes the heartbeat bill will resurface.

“Unless we take some bold steps, we’re not going to be able to end abortion in our country,” she said. “I think it would have been the wisest move for Gov. Kasich to sign both pieces of legislation, and to let them run their course. No effort is ever wasted.”

Samantha Gobba

Samantha is a freelancer for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hillsdale College, and has a multiple-subject teaching credential from California State University. Samantha resides in Chico, Calif., with her husband and their two sons.


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