Ohio legislature passes ‘heartbeat’ bill banning abortions
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Ohio lawmakers have passed a measure that would represent the strictest ban on abortions in the nation, a measure that could limit the procedure as early as six weeks after conception.

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The so-called “heartbeat” bill’s passage is a first for the state in recent years, even though Republicans control both chambers of Ohio’s legislature. The measure has passed the state House twice before, only to die in the Senate.

Legislators passed the measure on Tuesday without holding committee hearings. The vote broke down mostly along party lines, though a few House Republicans voted against it and two House Democrats voted in favor.

Gov. John Kasich (R) has not said whether he will sign the bill, and a spokeswoman declined to elaborate on his position on Tuesday. Kasich has expressed concerns that such a restrictive measure would not stand up in court.

Lower courts have struck down similar laws in North Dakota and Arkansas, and the Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals of those decisions. Even some abortion rights opponents, like Ohio Right to Life, have declined to support the heartbeat bill because of lower court rulings.

Pro-abortion rights groups were quick to threaten legal challenges.

“Clearly this bill’s supporters are hoping that President-elect Trump will have the chance to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with justices that are poised to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement. “We must prevent that from happening to protect women’s lives.”

The measure is just one of a handful of abortion restrictions working their way through the Ohio legislature’s lame-duck session. Legislators are also considering a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, a law that has been upheld by courts in other states.

Katherine Franklin, a spokeswoman for Ohio Right to Life, said in an email her group remained neutral on the fetal heartbeat bill. It backs the 20-week abortion ban instead.

“Both are pre-viability bans, but we believe [the 20-week ban] is the best strategy for overturning Roe v. Wade and will ultimately prove most palatable to the Supreme Court,” Franklin said. “It’s not just the Ohio strategy but the national strategy.”