Ohio Senate Approves 20-Week Abortion Ban Unless Doctor Certifies Fetus is not Viable

July 14, 2011 — The Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted 22-7 to approve a bill (HB 78) that would ban abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergencies or if a doctor determines that the fetus could not survive outside the womb, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The measure also requires physicians who perform abortions to submit reports to the Ohio Department of Health within 15 days after the woman is discharged (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 7/14). The bill was sent to Gov. John Kasich (R), who has not said whether he will sign it. Rob Nichols, a Kasich spokesperson, said the governor opposes abortion rights and is reviewing the bill (Carr Smyth, AP/Dayton Daily News, 7/13).

Sen. Nina Turner (D) criticized the bill for not allowing exceptions in cases of rape or incest. "This bill denies a woman her individual right, her civil rights and her human rights to have control over her body," she said, adding, "It would be really nice if we in the General Assembly cared as much about children once they are birthed as we care about them when they are in the womb. But due to budget cuts, ... we have certainly proven otherwise."

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said the state is turning into one of the most dangerous in the country for pregnant women. "What's obvious here is that they're trying to outlaw abortion," she said, adding, "They want to make it so inaccessible that it doesn't matter if it's still technically legal" (Columbus Dispatch, 7/14).

Guttmacher Institute Public Policy Associate Elizabeth Nash predicted that the bill, if signed into law, would deter doctors from providing even legal abortions out of fear for the risk of prosecution for performing a procedure on a viable fetus. "I can't imagine who would want to provide an abortion at that gestation in Ohio," she said, adding, "This would really have a chilling effect, which gets at what the supporters of [the] bill really want, which is to end all abortions" (AP/Dayton Daily News, 7/13).

Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday did not consider the controversial "heartbeat" bill (HB 125) that would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six or seven weeks of pregnancy (Columbus Dispatch, 7/14).