In a surprising move, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vetoed the controversial "heartbeat bill" that recently passed the state's House and Senate.
The bill, which would've been one of the nation's strictest abortion laws if it passed, banned abortion as soon as a physician could detect a heartbeat — as soon as six weeks.
The measure was expected to pass. It was tacked onto a noncontroversial child abuse law supported by both Democrats and Republicans. But after several emotional testimonies in the state House, as well as the outspoken efforts of activists and physicians, the bill was stopped.
That's the good news.
But Kasich's veto of the "hearbeat bill" is still not a victory for the pro-choice movement. Far from it.
Kasich signed into law a second bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. Remarkably, it's his 18th restriction on abortion rights as governor.
The 20-week ban also contains no exceptions for rape or incest cases, and according to the Columbus Dispatch, the law "will make it a fourth-degree felony for a physician to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy except to save a mother's life. The felony is punishable by up to 18 months in prison. A conviction also would result in the loss of a physician's medical license."
Needless to say, the vetoing of one extreme bill and passing of another has not escaped the attention of abortion rights activists:
Today @JohnKasich signed his 18th piece of legislation aimed at reducing access to safe, legal abortion in Ohio. Shame on you @JohnKasich!— Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (@Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio) 1481665093
We see right through you, @JohnKasich. #StopTheBans— Center for Reproductive Rights (@Center for Reproductive Rights) 1481665835
By vetoing 1 ban & passing another, Kasich is trying to appear moderate. Nothing abt controlling people's bodies is moderate. #StopTheBans— NARAL (@NARAL) 1481665545
The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy. #StopTheBans— NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio (@NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio) 1481666605
"The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy," NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a statement. "Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe and legal abortion care in her community. Kasich’s actions today will fall hardest on low-income women, women of color, and young women."
Make no mistake: A 20-week abortion ban is still a ban — and an attack on women's rights.
According to Planned Parenthood, 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but those that occur after are sometimes because of life-threatening anomalies that can only be detected later in pregnancy. They're wanted pregnancies that are simply dangerous to the mother or child.
Take April Salazar's story, for example. At 21 weeks, Salazar found out that her unborn son had lethal skeletal dysplasia and would die minutes after being born. Laws like the one passed in Ohio would force Salazar to carry that fetus to term, only to watch it suffer and die. There are numerous stories like hers — almost too many to count — but the key point is that every woman should have safe access to abortion regardless of an arbitrary time limit.
If you support a woman's right to choose, it's more important than ever to pay attention and not let laws like this pass.
20-week bans — or any limitations on abortion — are a direct threat to the constitutional right recognized by Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago. The people behind them are pretty up-front about that: "The 20-week ban was nationally designed to be the vehicle to end abortion in America," Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement.
Odds are we'll be seeing more laws like this in the coming years. If you're against them, you need to make your voice heard.