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ACLU Suing Ohio Soon To Stop 'Heartbeat Bill' From Taking Effect

Gov. Mike DeWine, center, speaks between Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, left, and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Paul Vernon
Associated Press

Ohio’s newest abortion law, which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, is scheduled to go into effect in three months. But there’s a very good chance the law previously known as the “Heartbeat Bill” will be blocked by a looming legal challenge.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law on Thursday, saying it was government's role to "protect the most vulnerable among us." But ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson says the new ban criminalizes almost all abortions in the state. 

“This is a very clear violation of women’s constitutional rights that have been established for close to fifty years under ‘Roe v. Wade,’ which became the law of the land in 1973,” Levenson says. “Women have a categorical right to abortions up until fetal viability.

The “Human Rights Protection Act,” as the bill was renamed, bans abortions as early as five or six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. It adds criminal penalties for doctors who violate the law, and does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Ohio is the sixth state in the country to enact such a law, but none have yet to take effect due to lawsuits.

Levenson says her group will file a legal challenge and ask for an immediate order to stop the law from taking effect. She says courts have struck down similar laws in other states and she expects the same with this one.

DeWine and other backers of this law say they expected this, and hope the bill will eventually be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court with the chance of overturning “Roe v. Wade.”

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.