Earlier this week, Ohio became the 15th state to prohibit late-term abortions after 20 weeks on pain-capable unborn babies.
And, breaking trend, abortion activists say they are not sure if they will challenge the new law in court.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law on Tuesday, bans late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy when strong medical evidence indicates that unborn babies can feel pain. The law could save hundreds of babies’ lives. In 2015, 145 unborn babies after 20-weeks of pregnancy were killed in abortions in Ohio, according to state health statistics.
Pro-abortion groups have a habit of filing lawsuits to block state abortion regulations, but the new Ohio law could be different.
Abortion-rights lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice and the Center for Reproductive Rights are weighing whether to challenge 20-week abortion ban laws put in place in half a dozen states.
“It is not so clear cut on this one,” said Christine Link, the long-time director of the ALCU of Ohio and an expert on reproductive rights litigation. Link said Ohio’s 20-week ban law is likely to take effect before lawyers from several agencies decide on a legal strategy. “There is so much at risk. Give the court a wobbly case and they might use it to broaden restrictions.”
Fourteen other states also have laws in place to ban abortions after 20 weeks on pain-capable unborn babies. Two of the states, Georgia and Idaho, face legal challenges to their laws, but 13 states have their laws in effect, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Together, these laws potentially are saving thousands of babies’ lives. Abortion activists often claim that late-term abortions are rare and only make up about 1.3 percent of abortions in the U.S.; but even that small percentage represents thousands of unborn babies’ lives. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.
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These numbers likely are even higher. California, Maryland and New Hampshire do not report their abortion numbers to the CDC.
The pro-abortion groups’ indecision about the Ohio bill hints at what many pro-lifers hoped: That the law could withstand court challenges, go into effect and save more babies from abortion in Ohio.
A number of pro-lifers were upset that Gov. Kasich vetoed another pro-life bill, the Heartbeat Bill, which banned abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks. However, Kasich and many others feared that, because the U.S. Supreme Court currently has a pro-abortion majority, abortion activists would succeed in overturning that law.
Heartbeat laws are controversial even among some pro-lifers, not because they oppose banning abortions but because they believed that the legislation would be overturned and the state taxpayers would be forced to pay abortion activists’ legal costs. Such groups are working to change the courts so Roe v. Wade can be overturned and legislation like the Heartbeat bill and others can be approved to provide legal protection for unborn children.
Ohio Right to Life noted: “The current pro-abortion Supreme Court was given the opportunity on two occasions in 2016 to address heartbeat legislation and both times refused to hear the case allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand. Both of those states’ heartbeat laws have been ruled unconstitutional, never took effect and saved not one unborn life. Legal scholars believe that asking the Court to entertain a third heartbeat law at this time would cause irreparable harm to the pro-life movement. The highest court in America has spoken twice on heartbeat laws in 2016, and the court supported the pro-abortion position.
“By endorsing the 20-week ban in lieu of the heartbeat approach, Governor Kasich provided strong pro-life leadership to finally engage a winnable battle with the federal judiciary while saving countless babies at the same time,” it added.