Ohio governor signs 20-week abortion ban, vetoes ‘heartbeat’ measure

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that bans abortion in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but also vetoed a bill that would have made abortion illegal when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at about the sixth week of pregnancy.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or SB 127, becomes law 90 days after the Dec. 13 signing. It is the 18th anti-abortion measure Kasich has signed since 2011.

Current Ohio law bans abortions after a fetus has begun its 20th week of gestation, unless a doctor determines that the fetus is not viable outside the womb. The new law eliminates the viability test and simply bans abortions past 20 weeks. The current exception for the woman's health still applies.

"I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading pro-life advocates that S.B. 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life," Kasich stated.

The governor also explained how he has worked to strengthen Ohio's protections for the sanctity of human life during his two terms in office, but that he felt the provisions in the heartbeat bill "are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States' current rulings on abortion."

It was a stance that Ohio Right to Life encouraged Kasich to take. Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, had said a fetal heartbeat bill likely would not have been upheld in the courts and that having such a strict standard overturned would have harmed the pro-life movement.

The Supreme Court ruled in January that North Dakota officials could not enforce the state's fetal heartbeat law. A federal judge overturned a similar law in Arkansas in 2014.

"We sincerely thank Gov. Kasich for his unwavering support for the unborn and our pro-life mission," Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, said in a statement. "By signing SB 127, the 20-week ban, Gov. Kasich will save hundreds of unborn lives each year, and he positioned the state of Ohio to directly challenge Roe v. Wade."

However, Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life, criticized the veto, saying many Ohioans are questioning Kasich's pro-life commitment.

"The governor had a chance to end abortion in Ohio and instead killed the opportunity by vetoing the bill," she said in a statement.

Smith also opposed Ohio Right to Life's position on the fetal heartbeat bill, saying the statewide group's rationale for opposing it "makes absolutely no sense." She cited constitutional lawyers who believed Ohio's measure would have withstood a court challenge.

Supporters of keeping abortion legal weighed in as well, saying Kasich's signing of the measure infringes on the right of women to decide the issue for themselves.

"Yet John Kasich and the Ohio state Legislature are intent on taking that right away," Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said in a statement. 

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