Ohio Legislature Passes Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 9, 2016   |   10:41AM   |   Columbus, Ohio

Late Thursday, the Ohio state legislature gave final approval to a bill that would ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Passage comes on the heels of the legislature approving a ban on all abortions after the heart of an unborn baby begins to beat.

Ohio House and Senate approved the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.B. 127), landmark legislation which poses a historic challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor John Kasich who has signed 17 Ohio Right to Life-supported measures since 2011.

The legislation would prohibit abortions at the time in pregnancy that a child can feel pain, or 20 weeks gestation, challenging the 24-week “viability” limitation set in Roe. Since 2010, 15 states have passed similar legislation, and pro-life leaders in Congress have attempted to pass a federal version.

In Ohio, 478 abortions occurred after 19 weeks gestation in 2015 alone. The legislation is sponsored by Senators Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Jay Hottinger (R-Newark).

“With the passage of this legislation, Ohio has taken a momentous step on the path to overturning Roe,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “When enacted, this legislation will immediately begin saving hundreds of babies throughout Ohio, and be a part of a national movement that will save thousands of lives. By protecting children who can feel pain from the brutal practice of abortion, Ohio is challenging the archaic, arbitrary framework set up by 7 activist judges more than 40 years ago.”

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Currently, Ohio prohibits abortions at 24 weeks gestation, or the point of viability. Ohio Right to Life argues that the viability standard, set in Roe v. Wade, has become increasingly unworkable as more and more babies are surviving premature births before the 24-week mark.

Additionally, most Americans support a 20-week ban. In November 2014, The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 60% of Americans would support prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, while only 33% opposed such legislation. Women voters strongly support such a law by 59-35%, while independent voters supported it by 56-36%.

“This historic moment is a critical step in the national effort to redefine the abortion debate and expand protections for the unborn,” said Gonidakis. “In the age of 4D ultrasounds and even 3D printed ultrasounds, abortion simply isn’t the ‘unknown’ that it once was for Americans. We know that at this stage in pregnancy, these children are literally dismembered limb-by-limb and that the child has pain receptors present throughout her entire body. Ohio is eager to take the lead in rejecting this practice and leading the United States down a humane path that protects the most vulnerable among us.”

Because the heartbeat-based abortion ban will not likely survive a legal challenge in court, pro-life legislators approved the 20-week abortion ban with the hope of saving as many babies as possible under Roe v. Wade.

Both measures will be part of the same legislative package that now go to pro-life Governor John Kasich. Because he may possibly veto the heartbeat-based abortion ban due to the legal concerns that it would be overturned, Kasich may decide to sign the 20-week abortion ban instead.

Leading pro-life groups applauded the Ohio Legislature sending the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to Governor Kasich’s desk.

“The bold pro-life action taken by the Ohio legislature is reflective of the message the voters sent on Election Day, and that is a rejection of the status quo,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List).

She told LifeNews: “Americans reject the status quo of abortion on-demand, especially painful late-term abortions. Instead, voters and lawmakers are recognizing the humanity of the unborn child: its heartbeat around six weeks and the pain the child can feel at 20 weeks. Both the heartbeat bill and the Pain-Capable bill aim to humanize our law. Should either of these bills land in the Courts, the Courts should take the opportunity to catch our laws up with public opinion, science, and basic human decency. The Supreme Court hoped to settle the abortion issue when they decided Roe in 1973, and it has proven to be a spectacular failure. The will of the pro-life grassroots was validated on Election Day, and we won’t stop fighting until all unborn children are protected under the law.”

Other groups favored the heartbeat bill.

“Cincinnati Right to Life, the entire statewide Ohio pro-life coalition, and all else who have supported the Unborn Heartbeat Protection bill the past several years thanks and congratulates the Ohio Senate on this momentous vote,” said Paula Westwood, Executive Director, Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. “We look forward to passage of H.B. 493 with Heartbeat protection amendment in the Ohio House, and Governor Kasich’s immediate support.”

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said pro-life people need to “be realistic” that the Heartbeat bill will undoubtedly not survive an expected court challenge if signed into law.

Republican Sens. Bill Seitz and Bill Coley were among the three Republicans who voted against the heartbeat bill over concerns it would be overturned in court.

“The sad reality of this bill passing will be that we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on attorney fees for a bill that has zero chance of becoming law,” said Coley. “My biggest fear is that some of the great work that we have done in protecting life here in Ohio will be jeopardized.”

Looking at North Dakota’s bill, a federal appeals court overturned the law in 2014. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about their ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”

A U.S. Supreme Court decision against the law in January was not surprising given the high court still has a pro-abortion majority that supports Roe v. Wade, which allows virtually unlimited abortions throughout pregnancy and essentially prevents states from protecting most unborn children.

The North Dakota and other states’ heartbeat laws are controversial even among some pro-lifers, not because they oppose banning abortions but because they believed that it would be overturned and the state would be forced to pay abortion activists’ legal costs. Such groups are working to change the courts so Roe can be overturned and legislation like the Heartbeat bill and others can be approved to provide legal protection for unborn children.

However, should the pro-life measure be signed into law, the legislation would likely be struck down in court as has been the case and two other states — Arkansas and North Dakota.