Governor Dewine Signs Ohio Abortion Ban, ACLU Vows to Sue

Photo of a flyer provided by abortion abolitionist Sarah Cleveland who has regularly solicited women outside women’s health clinics to not get abortions.

Ohio Governer Mike Dewine signed into law Senate Bill 23 Thursday which effectively bans abortion for the vast majority of the tens of thousands of Ohio women who currently seek abortion yearly.

Dubbed by supporters as a “heartbeat bill,” the law abolishes abortion once a heartbeat is detected in the fetus, which is at 5 ½ or 6 weeks after gestation, before many women know they are pregnant, and earlier than most women are currently able to access abortion.

The bill makes no exception for women who have been raped, but provides an exception if a women’s health is at risk.

Freda Levenson, the Legal Director of ACLU of Ohio, said the ACLU will sue, and expects the courts to rule in their favor, and if it is appealed they will continue to fight the case. Levenson pointed to the fact that multiple other states have passed similar bills and they have all been struck down by the courts.

“We don’t think it’s a constructive use of tax payer funds to pass bills only to have them struck down,” said Levenson. But she acknowledged that there is a widespread belief among conservatives that the US Supreme Court, with newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh, may overturn or sideline Roe v Wade 1973. Roe recognized the woman’s right to have an abortion till the point where a fetus is viable outside the womb, which is near the end of a woman’s nine month pregnancy.

The sponsor of this bill, Senator Kristina Roegner, said the day she introduced the bill that basing abortion rights on a fetus’ viability outside the womb creates a “moving target.” Roegner said, framing the issue as a “women’s right to choose is meant to distract us from the real issue which is an unborn babies right to life.”

Sarah Cleveland, a self-described abortion abolitionist who has regularly solicited women outside women’s health clinics to not get abortions, said the bill does not go far enough. “We are trusting the abortionist to determine if there is a heartbeat. That’s not right,” Cleveland said.

Sarah Inskeep, The Communication and Digital Manager with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, the legislative and advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, said, “This bill will impact 10s of thousands of women” who seek abortion in a year. Inskeep said, “Since 2011 about half of abortion providers have closed down” in Ohio due to 21 restrictions to abortion that have passed the state legislature, all signed into law by former Ohio Governor John Kasich.

ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Levenson said calling it a “heartbeat bill is a clever name to make it sound as if it’s accomplishing something good,” when in fact it “takes away the self-determination of women over their own bodies.”

Jane Doe, an incest survivor and Ohio resident who asked to conceal her real name, attended the introduction of the law in the Senate. She said she was only 11-years-old when her brother started sexually abusing her. She didn’t get pregnant when she was raped by him, but she said if she had, “I couldn’t talk to my parents about it, so I probably would have looked online [for self-administered abortion options] but if that failed, I would have killed myself.”

To see the Columbus Free Press previous reporting on SB23 go here.
The abortion ban sped through the Ohio legislature, introduced in the Senate a month before it was signed into law.