Federal judge temporarily halts Ohio’s ‘heartbeat abortion’ law

Columbus, Ohio, Jul 8, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- An Ohio law banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat was temporarily blocked by a federal judge July 3, a week before it was set to take effect.

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett issued the temporary stay on the law following a suit from the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics and abortion rights groups.

The ACLU has argued that the law is unconstitutional because it would effectively ban most abortions. Fetal heartbeats are typically first detectable between six and eight weeks of pregnancy, before some women know they are pregnant.

In his ruling, Barrett wrote that the law is unconstitutional “on its face” and that "the law is well-settled that women possess a fundamental constitutional right of access to abortions,” reported local radio station WOSU.

The temporary stay means that abortion clinics may continue performing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable while the law’s constitutionality is argued in court.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed the law April 11, fulfilling a campaign promise after former Governor John Kasich (R) had twice vetoed similar legislation. Kasich had argued at the time that passing a heartbeat law would lead to an expensive legal battle for the state of Ohio. He said the state would ultimately lose the fight and be forced to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.”

“Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end,” DeWine said at the time of the law’s signing.

The Ohio House had voted 56-40 and the Senate 18-13 to send Senate Bill 23 to DeWine’s desk. State Senator Kristina Roegner (R) was the bill’s primary sponsor.

The law would criminally penalize doctors for performing or inducing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, with exceptions for medical emergencies. Women would also be able to sue doctors who perform abortions for wrongful deaths.

“While it is certainly disappointing that Judge Barrett would issue a preliminary injunction, it is certainly not surprising,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a statement July 3. “The Heartbeat Bill has the potential to be the vehicle that overturns Roe v. Wade. We know that this preliminary injunction is just a step in the process to finally seeing Roe reconsidered.”

Roe is an outdated, terribly decided precedent and its time that the Supreme Court take a second look at it,” Gonidakis added. “We’re confident that the Heartbeat Bill could be the legislation that reaches that level. In the meantime, we will continue to advocate for life-saving laws and policies to seek a more life-affirming culture in Ohio.”

Several states have similar heartbeat laws in place, including Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to Fox News reports. While some states have sought to considerably restrict abortion this year in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, other states, including Rhode Island and Vermont, have passed laws protecting broad access to abortion throughout most or all of pregnancy for almost any reason.

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