UPDATE @ 4:07 p.m. (12/13/16):
Ohio Governor John Kasich has vetoed the Heartbeat Bill, and signs the 20-week abortion ban.
Here is the statement from Gov. Kasich regarding his veto Tuesday:
“As governor I have worked hard to strengthen Ohio’s protections for the sanctity of human life, and I have a deep respect for my fellow members of the pro-life community and their ongoing efforts in defense of unborn life. Certain provisions that were amended into Am. Sub. HB 493, however, are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion.
Similar legislation enacted in two other states has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal judges, and the Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. Because the federal courts are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, the amendment to Am. Sub. HB 493 will be struck down. The State of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and, as the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers. Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections against unborn life. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.”
The abortion debate raged on at the Ohio Statehouse as lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill to ban the procedure after 20 weeks gestation — a month earlier than what is generally considered the point of viability for a fetus outside the womb.
After more than an hour-long debate that at times became emotional, the Ohio House voted 64-29 in favor of Senate Bill 127.
It is the second abortion ban bill embraced by lawmakers in just three days. On Tuesday, state senators and representatives passed a bill that would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — often when women don’t even know yet that they’re pregnant.
The moves mean that Ohio Gov. John Kasich will have two abortion bills on his desk: Senate Bill 127, the 20-week ban, and House Bill 493, the six-week ban known as the “heartbeat bill.”
Republicans backed the bill, arguing that at 20 weeks a fetus can feel pain and should be treated as a human being. State Rep. Bob Cupp, a Republican and former state Supreme Court justice, said a ruling against the constitutionality of a 20-week ban isn’t a foregone conclusion.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp., said government’s most paramount role is to protect its citizens.
Democrats spoke out against Senate Bill 127, saying it is fiscally irresponsible to invite costly litigation and it is a government overreach into what should be private medical decisions made by a woman in concert with her doctor. State Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, criticized the bill, in part, because it lack an exemption for victims of rape or incest.
This week, Kasich declined to comment on the six-week ban — or any bills hitting his desk — until after the General Assembly concludes its work.
Kasich opposes abortion. During his tenure, he has signed more than a dozen abortion restriction measures into law, he put the president of Ohio Right to Life on the state medical board and Ohio has seen half of its abortion clinics close.
The governor has 10 days after a bill hits his desk to either sign it into law, let it go into law without his signature or veto it. Here is the twist: Kasich has the authority to line-item veto — invalidate select portions — of the heartbeat bill because it includes an appropriation. (It was folded into a separate bill dealing with child abuse and neglect reporting requirements.)
Both bills could invite legal challenges. Federal courts have already struck down similar “heartbeat bills” in North Dakota and Arkansas and 20-week bans in Arizona and Idaho.
“Bans such as these only hurt women and their families and waste taxpayer dollars by defending laws that federal courts have routinely declared unconstitutional. Gov. Kasich should veto any bill that infringes upon reproductive freedom,” said Mike Brickner of the ACLU of Ohio.
The civil liberties group will consider suing to block both, he said.
Fewer abortions were performed in Ohio in 2015 than at any time since the state began keeping records in 1976, according to an Ohio Department of Health report. The report shows that the steady decline that has been occurring over the past 15 years continued in 2015, with a slight drop to 20,976 abortions reported in the state.
Meanwhile, lawmakers failed to advance a comprehensive sexual education bill proposed by state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, to deploy health education to teens and expand access to contraception. Similar legislation failed to advance in the previous two General Assemblies.
HOW LOCAL LAWMAKERS VOTED
Senate Bill 127 would ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Here is how local lawmakers voted:
Yes: Niraj Antani, John Becker, Tom Brinkman, Jim Buchy, Jim Butler, Mike Henne, Steve Huffman, Kyle Koehler, Ron Maag, Rick Perales, Wes Retherford, Jeff Rezabek, Nino Vitale, Paul Zeltwanger.
No: Fred Strahorn.