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Governor Vetoes "Heartbeat Bill", Signs 20 Week Abortion Ban

Karen Kasler

Gov. John Kasich has vetoed a controversial abortion bill that would have banned abortion at six weeks into a pregnancy. But he signed another abortion ban into law.

Gov. John Kasich put out a statement, saying he had signed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But he also noted that he had vetoed the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” provision that had been added to a child abuse bill. In that statement, Kasich said he agreed with Ohio Right to Life and other advocates that the 20 week ban was – quoting here – “the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life.”

Janet Folger Porter, founder of the group Faith2Action and the woman who has pushed lawmakers for six years to pass the "Heartbeat Bill", is angry:  “Gov. Kasich’s political career is over.” And Folger Porter sees Kasich’s veto of the "Heartbeat Bill" as a betrayal. “Gov. Kasich betrayed life, broke his campaign promises and turned his back on 20,000 babies whose heartbeats can be heard.” But Folger Porter is urging her supporters not to give up, saying the battle over the "Heartbeat Bill" is not yet over – she says lawmakers could start the override process with just two more votes in the House.

But the president of Ohio Right to Life, Mike Gonidakis, thinks Kasich made the right call. “Simply put, he’s the most pro-life governor in our state’s history. He’s the most pro-life governor in our nation," Gonidakis said. "And I say that factually, not in an opinionated format, because there is no governor in the United States who has signed more pro-life laws than John Kasich.”

Kasich has now signed 18 pieces of abortion related legislation into law since taking office in 2011. “We are at historic lows in the number of abortions. We are at historic lows in the number of abortion clinics," Gonidakis said. "So for those who are of our pro-life persuasion, John Kasich is not just a state leader but a national leader on our issue.” Gonidakis says his group didn’t support the "Heartbeat Bill" because they feared it would be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. He says abortion restrictions now on the books could have been hurt by a challenge over the "Heartbeat Bill".

But this 20-week ban is likely headed for the courts too. Ohio Right to Life said in a statement that the ban is landmark legislation which poses a historic challenge to Roe v. Wade. Gonidakis says the best plan for his side is to take smaller steps to chip away at abortion. “We have to continue this incrememtal approach one step at a time because at the end of the day, the Supreme Court, the way its currently made up would rule against us," Gonidakis said. "In fact, in January of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court had two opportunities to take up Heartbeat bills in North Dakota and Arkansas and they turned them both down.”

Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates are upset that Kasich signed the 20-week ban. A statement from Planned Parenthood called Kasich “one of the most extreme anti-abortion governors in this country”, and said that the activists who protested both of these bans over the last few days won’t stop. Gabriel Mann is with NARAL Pro Choice Ohio. “John Kasich is treating women’s health care like a game. He thinks that by vetoing one abortion ban, Ohioans won’t notice that he signed another.”

Mann takes issue with the 20 week ban because it doesn’t allow exceptions for rape or incest. “The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy. Once a woman has made a decision to end a pregnancy, she need access to safe, legal abortion care in her community," Mann said. "Kasich’s action will fall hardest on low income women, women of color and young women. History will not judge Gov. Kasich’s disregard for women’s health kindly.”

And like Janet Folger Porter and her fight to continue to push for the “Heartbeat Bill”, Mann says the battle over the 20-week ban is not over. “ACLU Ohio has promised to pursue a lawsuit against the 20-week abortion ban. It is an unconstitutional restriction against women’s health care.”

But Attorney General Mike DeWine disagrees on that point because the age of viability has progressed since Roe versus Wade was handed down in the 70’s. “We will certainly defend that. We would have defended the "Heartbeat Bill" as well.”

There’s no word on if or when state lawmakers might come back into session to try to override Kasich’s veto of the Heartbeat bill. The “Heartbeat Bill” was added to the child abuse bill in the Senate, and a spokesman for Senate President Keith Faber said since the bill originated in the House, it would have to take action first.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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