COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – In the face of a promised legal challenge, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law Thursday a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The Republican-led Ohio House passed the bill Wednesday in a 56-40 vote, mainly along party lines, with loud protests erupting from Democrats and pro-abortion rights advocates. It then passed through the Senate 18-13 to approve more restrictive changes made in the House, with this vote also falling largely along party lines.
With DeWine’s signature, the new law, known officially as the Human Rights Protection Act, is among the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation. The law bans abortion as early as six weeks, before many women realize they are pregnant. It makes no exceptions for cases for rape or incest.
The law authorizes the use of transvaginal ultrasounds to detect fetal heartbeats, which allow them to be detected earlier in a pregnancy. It also adds criminal penalties for doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat is detected or who fail to do either an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound before performing an abortion.
These medical professionals can be charged with a fifth-degree felony, punishable by six to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Doctors would also be subject to disciplinary action by the State Medical Board of Ohio, who may revoke or suspend a medical license. The medical board could also levy a $20,000 fine, which would go to funding foster care and adoption services in Ohio.
Under the new law, women can sue abortion providers for wrongful death.
Although the law does not make exceptions for incest or rape, there is an exception for the health and life of a woman after a heartbeat has been detected. Once such an abortion is performed, abortion providers must document and keep copies of the woman’s health issues for seven years.
Patients allowed to undergo an abortion would also have to sign a form that acknowledges she received information from the abortion provider explaining that “the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying has a fetal heartbeat and that the pregnant woman is aware of the statistical probability of bringing the unborn human individual that the pregnant woman is carrying to term,” according to a Legislative Budget Office analysis.
After this acknowledgement, the pregnant woman must wait 24 hours to have the procedure.
As DeWine signed the bill surrounded by supporters, loved
ones and children, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio vowed to sue the
state over the controversial restrictions.
DeWine acknowledged as much when signing the bill.
“We know there is going to be a legal challenge. Ultimately the United States Supreme Court is going have to decide,” he said.
The ACLU of Ohio tweeted just before the signing, “This legislation is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight to the bitter end to ensure that this bill is permanently blocked.”
Heartbeat bills have been passed in Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota. Another in Georgia awaits the governor’s signature. The Iowa and North Dakota laws were blocked by courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court decided against hearing the case challenging North Dakota’s law.
Prior to the passage of the heartbeat measure, Ohio passed a bill that banned dilation and evacuation abortions, which is the prevailing procedure used after the 12th week of pregnancy. Last month, a federal court temporarily blocked that law in a challenge brought by Planned Parenthood.