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Ohio Republicans Propose Banning All Abortions

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Abortion rights protestors demonstrate after passage of a 20-week abortion ban and the "heartbeat bill" provision in December 2016.

After a federal judge put the brakes on Ohio’s latest abortion restrictions, a group of Republican lawmakers are trying to take a step even further: banning all abortions in Ohio.

Under a bill introduced Monday, HB 565, the state would prohibit abortions even in cases of rape, incest or danger to a woman's life.

The proposal would allow criminal charges against both doctors and pregnant women seeking abortions and would characterize an "unborn human" as a person under Ohio's criminal code regarding homicide. That means abortions could be punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio criticized the proposal, calling it an obvious attempt to give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to overturn "Roe v. Wade," the 1973 decision providing the right to have an abortion.

“Anti-choice extremists from the Ohio Statehouse to the White House are lining up their dominoes to topple Roe v. Wade and punish those who seek or provide abortion care,” said executive director Kellie Copeland in a press release.

The measure was sponsored by state Reps. Ron Hood, of Ashville, and Nino Vitale, of Urbana, and 18 more House Republicans signed on. Only one of the co-sponsors, Rep. Tim Schaffer of Lancaster, is from Central Ohio.

Ohio has incrementally added abortion restrictions in recent years, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks that went into effect in 2017. Not all the laws have stayed alive, though. Last week, a judge put on hold a state law banning abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

In 2016, Gov. John Kasich vetoed the controversial “Heartbeat Bill” that would ban abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected, sometimes as early as six weeks. Ohio Right to Life did not support that bill, citing concerns over its constitutionality. The bill was reintroduced last year, but has yet to go anywhere.

A blanket ban on abortions would almost certainly not hold up in court, even if the Ohio General Assembly were to pass it over Kasich's likely objections. In recent years, the ACLU sued Ohio four times over abortion restrictions, and reports estimate that Ohio will spend up to several million dollars defending those laws.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.