Op-Ed on Ohio Heartbeat Bill

Posted on December 13, 2016

Ohio’s heartbeat bill is unconscionable and unconstitutional
by Gloria Totten, published in The Hill

Unfortunately for women, Trump’s vision for America is already alive and well in the Buckeye State.

Emboldened by the election, Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and at least one — if not two — Supreme Court seats up for grabs over the next four years, Ohio lawmakers this week approved legislation that, if signed by Governor John Kasich, would be the strictest anti-abortion legislation in the country, effectively banning nearly all abortion in the state. Dubbed the heartbeat bill, the ban would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — typically around the six-week mark, long before most women notice they are pregnant — with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Tacked on as a last-minute amendment to an unrelated child abuse prevention bill, the proposed abortion ban is just one component of a larger campaign by Ohio conservatives to outlaw abortion in the state. In fact, just this past month, on Nov. 30, the only abortion clinic in Dayton, Ohio had its medical license revoked for not having enough emergency backup doctors from nearby hospitals — a ridiculous restriction, which abortion rights advocates say resulted from intentionally targeted legislation.

The closure of the Women’s Med Center leaves only nine clinics remaining in the state. Many closures of which have occurred under Governor Kasich’s administration.

Despite largely steering clear of reproductive issues during the Republican primary, the governor has a long record of undermining women’s rights. Since taking office, Kasich has signed 17 anti-abortion measures into law, defunded Planned Parenthood, made it illegal for public hospitals to perform abortions or receive funding for the procedure, required abortion clinics to have admitting privileges, and mandated ultrasounds before women can terminate a pregnancy.

All of this on top of existing restrictive anti-abortion laws that make Ohio amongst the strictest states in the country when it comes to abortion.

With so many anti-abortion restrictions already in place, an all-out ban on abortion is nothing short of a desire to control women’s decisions.

Make no mistake — this bill is not only designed to shame and punish women, but it is plainly unconstitutional. In fact, previous attempts to pass the bill in Ohio failed over concerns that it would be ruled unconstitutional in the federal courts, which struck down similar fetal heartbeat abortion laws in Arkansas and North Dakota. However, the wave of optimism from Republicans in the Ohio state legislature suggests anti-abortion advocates are feeling bullish about their future in Trump’s America.

If signed into law by Governor John Kasich, the bill could offer eager conservative activists their greatest opportunity in years to overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby dismantling not just abortion rights, but the long-standing judicial tradition of respecting precedent.

We cannot let this happen. As the introduction of anti-abortion bills increase in the states, it is more important than ever for our policies to reflect the majority opinion that abortion is safe, should be accessible, and reproductive health care should be medically accurate. That is why the abortion rights movement is gearing up for a fight, pushing legislation that will reverse the tide of anti-abortion restrictions in the states and work to preserve a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about her own body without the hand of the government involved.