Ohio Is About To Ban Abortions Before Most People Even Know They’re Pregnant

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Less than two weeks after a similar bill passed in Georgia, a six-week abortion ban passed the Ohio state legislature on Wednesday, and the state's Republican governor says he intends to sign it. The bill makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and Planned Parenthood has pledged to sue, the Associated Press reports.

Similar versions of the bill had passed Ohio's legislature twice before, according to the Associated Press, but then-Gov. John Kasich vetoed them both. However, current Gov. Mike DeWine has said he will sign the most recent version of the legislation, which will make Ohio the sixth state to enact six-week abortion bans.

In March, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that bans abortions after six weeks, USA Today reports, and it's currently awaiting the governor's signature. A similar bill is under consideration in Louisiana as well, according to Mississippi, Kentucky, and Iowa have already passed six-week abortion bans, reports, although the Iowa measure was struck down by a district court judge in January.

Laws that seek to ban abortions at six weeks are often erroneously referred to as "fetal heartbeat" bills, but that characterization is incorrect. A fetus does not possess a heart at six weeks, as Dr. Jennifer Gunter writes at HuffPost; rather, it has a millimeters-thick structure called the fetal pole that exhibits fetal activity long before the fetus's heart has developed.

Reproductive rights groups condemned DeWine and Ohio Republicans for passing the measure and promised to sue to have it overturned.

"If this is what it takes, we will see you at the Supreme Court," said Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, to protesters outside of the statehouse, according to WOSU. In a subsequent statement, Harvey called it "unconscionable that Ohio lawmakers continue to use people’s health care as a political pawn in their national strategy to ban safe, legal abortion." She also said that Planned Parenthood will "stand against the onslaught of attacks on Ohioans and will use everything at our disposal to protect their access to safe, legal abortion.”

As Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, pointed out in a statement, Ohio's law and other six-week bans effectively prohibit abortions before many women even know that they're pregnant.

Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have pursued draconian restrictions on abortion in 2019. According to Planned Parenthood, there's been a 63 percent increase in six-week abortion bans at the state level in 2019 from the year before. In early April, Alabama lawmakers passed a two-week abortion ban, while on Monday, Texas legislators held a hearing on a bill that would impose the death penalty for women who have abortions.

Under the Ohio legislation, any doctor who performs an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the fetal pole could face felony charges, up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and the possibility of having the State Medical Board of Ohio revoke their medical license, reports.