UPDATE SINCE LAST POSTED:
Ohio has become the 18th state to adopt a 20-week abortion ban. Governor Kasich vetoed the 6-week abortion ban, and signed the 20-week abortion ban into law on December 13, 2016. The 20-week ban, as described below, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It also criminalizes and penalizes abortion providers who would be at risk of receiving an 18 month prison sentence for providing abortion services after 20 weeks.
We, along with our partners, will continue to fight the unconstitutionality of bans like this, and the dangers of criminalization.
During the U.S. Presidential campaign, we watched in horror as public figures spoke proudly about their plans to defund Planned Parenthood. And we were witness to calls—including from then candidate/now President-elect Trump—for stricter abortion laws, even at one point calling for a total abortion ban, despite the fact that proposed restrictions and bans would put pregnant people’s lives in danger and violate international law. One of the figures calling for stricter abortion laws was Governor Kasich of Ohio.
We’re already seeing much of the campaign rhetoric turn into a painful reality, and lawmakers emboldened to push forward contentious and harmful bills. This Tuesday, the legislature in Ohio passed a ban on abortion as soon as the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected (House Bill 493). Heartbeats are detectable around six weeks, which is before many people even realize they’re pregnant. This type of measure essentially bans abortion altogether, and would criminalize abortion providers, who could face up to a year in prison if they perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected or if they fail to test for one before providing an abortion. If signed into law, Ohio would be home to the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions.
On Thursday, the legislature passed another abortion ban which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks (Senate Bill 127). The bans would also only make an exception if the life of the pregnant person is at risk, but not in cases of rape or incest—a clear violation of human rights law. And they also clearly violate Roe v. Wade, whereby states are not allowed to prohibit abortions before the fetus is viable (usually around 22 to 24 weeks).
The bills now sit on Governor Kasich’s desk, who will make the final decision of whether the bills become law or not. As governor, Kasich has signed anti-abortion measures into law, including a law that requires an Ohio doctor to perform an ultrasound before a person can get an abortion (if possible, the doctor must offer the person a chance to listen to the heartbeat and view the ultrasound). This is not the first time Ohio has tried to pass similar “heartbeat” bills like the one which passed on Tuesday. Previously, Kasich has been opposed to the measure, but the climate is different this time and many lawmakers feel emboldened. State Senate President Keith Faber, for example, said the bill came back again and has better chance than it did before because of the President-elect’s victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.
Such proposals defy human rights standards and put the lives of pregnant people, especially women of color and low-income women, at risk. Sadly, Ohio is one of many states we need to watch and then join together to fight against human rights violations.
We must reject at every turn laws that restrict people’s rights—from Ohio to the White House: we must ensure all people’s sexual and reproductive rights are upheld.