Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed the controversial Heartbeat Bill, which was quickly passed by the Senate and House last week, saying he wanted to avoid the possibility of an expensive lawsuit against abortion rights groups that have previously threatened to sue if the bill got approved.
However, he approved the 20-week abortion ban which, like the Heartbeat Bill, is unconstitutional, leaving others to wonder if it could be part of a strategy to introduce other abortion restriction laws in the future.
“We've already been seeing bans starting at 20 weeks," Brigitte Amiri of the American Civil Liberties Union said. "Certainly, Donald Trump's election will embolden politicians at the state and federal level to push for more restrictions — including bans on abortion."
The ACLU said it would pursue legal action if the governor approves the Heartbeat Bill. However, it was not as keen on filing a lawsuit against the 20-week abortion ban.
Kasich explained a legal battle most likely result in a defeat. Upon consideration of expensive legal fees, which would be shouldered by taxpayer dollars, he decided to veto the bill in pursuit of “public interest.”
“The state of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and, as the losing party, the state of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers,” he said. “Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.”
The Heartbeat Bill was not a standalone bill; it was inserted as an amendment into an unrelated legislation, House Bill 493. It bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually around four to six weeks into the pregnancy. If it were passed, it would have been the most restrictive abortion law in the country.
Ohio lawmakers had been hesitant to support the Heartbeat Bill before, but with the election of Donald Trump, who promised to appoint pro-life justitices to the Supreme Court, they had been empowered to give it a go, according to Ohio Senate President Keith Faber.
The anti-abortion group Ohio Right to Life, however, did not support the lawmakers’ move, saying the bill would most likely not survive a legal battle owing to Roe v. Wade.
Abortion rights groups are looking into the possibility that the Heartbeat Bill was intentionally set up as a distraction in order to ease the approval of the 20-week abortion ban.
Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, lauded Kasich’s decision to prioritize the 20-week abortion ban instead of the Heartbeat Bill.
"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," he said.
Ohio is now one of 16 states in the U.S. to ban abortion at 20 weeks of gestation.