Ohio passes 2nd bill restricting abortions; both await Kasich’s signature

(CNN) — Ohio lawmakers for the second time this week have passed a bill that would restrict abortions, the latest of which would ban the procedure after 20 weeks’ gestation.

The state’s current law generally bans abortions after a fetus has begun its 20th week of gestation, unless a doctor determines that the fetus isn’t viable outside the womb. Exceptions are made if the pregnancy puts the woman’s health at serious risk.

The latest measure, Senate Bill 127, would eliminate the viability test and simply ban abortions past 20 weeks. The woman’s-health exception would still apply.

Gov. John Kasich will now have before him that measure, which passed Thursday, and the “Heartbeat Bill,” which passed on Tuesday. The “Heartbeat Bill” aims to ban abortions from the moment the heartbeat of a fetus can be detected — which usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Some Ohio legislators criticized the latest measure.

“It’s not about the babies; it’s about the attack on women,” Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor said.

Fedor proposed an amendment to SB 127 that would have made an exception for victims of rape and incest. But the amendment failed, and the House passed the bill Thursday with a 64-29 vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio said SB 127 would harm Ohio women. The bill would prevent those “who are facing the difficult decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy from receiving the care they need in our state,” the group said in a statement published on its website.

The law “would effectively eliminate all options for women without the financial resources to travel for abortion care,” the ACLU said.

In a statement, Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said: “For the second time in a week, the Ohio Legislature has inserted itself into women’s private and personal health care decisions.”

“These bans are a deliberate attempt to make abortion illegal in the state of Ohio,” she said. “If signed into law, these bills would force women to travel long distances and cross state lines to access abortion. For many women, the expense and time these restrictions would force upon them would make access impossible.”

Passed in the lame duck period

Once the new bills reach Kasich, he will have 10 days to decide whether to sign or veto them. A veto would stop a bill unless three-fifths of the state House and Senate vote for an override.

The bills were proposed at the end of the state’s House session — known as the “lame-duck” period.

“A hallmark of lame duck is a flood of bills, including bills inside of bills,” Kasich press secretary Emmalee Kalmbach told CNN, referring to a larger child abuse bill within which the “Heartbeat Bill” is contained. “We will closely examine everything we receive.”

Consensus to move forward

Donald Trump’s election, and a presumption that he’ll appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, spurred Ohio Republicans to pass the “Heartbeat Bill,” which would effectively be the nation’s strictest time-based abortion law, according to a legislator.

State legislators had considered the bill in previous years but it never passed the Senate.

“One, a new President, new Supreme Court justice appointees change the dynamic, and that there was a consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, told reporters Tuesday.

Asked if he thought the bill would survive a legal challenge, he said: “I think it has a better chance than it did before.”

Should either bill become law, a court battle likely would ensue. The ACLU of Ohio already has said it would press a legal challenge.

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