Ohio governor signs 'heartbeat' abortion bill

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Thursday signed into law one of the country's most stringent abortion laws, with opponents vowing to file legal challenges.

The bill bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which doctors say can be as early as five or six weeks into pregnancy.

“The government’s role should be protect life from the beginning to the end … the signing of this bill today is consistent with that respect for life,” DeWine said at the signing ceremony.

DeWine’s approval breaks with his predecessor Gov. John Kasich (R), who vetoed similar bills twice while in office.

This version of the bill was approved by the Republican-controlled state Senate and House earlier this month.

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Doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected could be subject to a $20,000 fine from the State Medical Board of Ohio and could have their medical licenses suspended or revoked.

North Dakota, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa and Mississippi have all passed heartbeat bills, but many of them have been challenged or blocked in courts.

ACLU of Ohio announced before the bill’s signing that they would be filing a lawsuit challenging the latest measure.

“Gov. DeWine just signed the Ohio law that virtually bans all abortion care. We'll see you in court," the national ACLU said after DeWine's action on Thursday.

A legal challenge to the bill could lead to a case focused on overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability.

“The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis told the AP.

“While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies." 

Updated: 4:45 p.m.