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Ohio’s Unconstitutional “Heartbeat Bill” Would Make Abortion Almost Completely Inaccessible

Here’s a civic action assignment for our American readers, particularly those of you who live in Ohio: call Governor John Kasich about the “heartbeat bill,” which would be the most strict abortion restriction in the country, if it passed. Unfortunately, the bill has already gotten through the House and Senate, just last night, which means that it’s on Governor Kasich’s desk today.

The bill would ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be heard, which can occur as soon as six weeks after conception. Six weeks is an incredibly short time window; you might not even realize you’re pregnant by then. That only allows enough time to miss one period, after which point you’d have a couple of weeks to get a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are more accurate the longer you wait; most will recommend that you wait a week. But that would leave you only one more week to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

If the doctor can’t see you within that brief window of time, or if you couldn’t afford to get an appointment or a procedure right away, you’d be stuck carrying the baby to term—which would be an obviously huge cost (emotionally, physically, financially), as well as a huge cost to the state (financially). What’s more, the bill does not make exceptions for pregnancy that results from rape and/or incest.

This type of law would clearly not stop people from needing abortions, so it would only encourage people to seek out illegal and potentially unsafe means of terminating a pregnancy. It also would make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions after the brief time window had passed.

This bill goes directly against what the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, which allows abortions up until 22-24 weeks into a pregnancy.

According to HuffPo, Kasich has not yet indicated whether or not he will sign the bill, which is why it’s important for you to call him and weigh in. One argument you could make, should you dial his number today, would be that the bill is unconstitutional and could therefore result in an unnecessary legal battle for the state.

For example, North Dakota passed a very similar “heartbeat bill” back in 2013, which also had the same six-week limitation. The state ended up having to pay $245,000 in attorney’s fees after losing a challenge to the bill. At that time, New York’s Center for Reproductive Rights provided legal representation to North Dakota’s only abortion provider; Janet Crepps, the senior counsel of the center, said that North Dakota lawmakers must have known going in that the law would never really take effect without being challenged, but they “decided to go ahead and pass a law that was unconstitutional anyway.” Similarly, the Supreme Court did not allow Arkansas to pass a 12-week abortion ban earlier this year.

The reason why Republicans now feel like passing the bill again is worthwhile is because, under a Trump administration, the Supreme Court may change. Ohio Senate President Keith Faber put it this way to the Columbus Dispatch: “A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward… I think it has a better chance than it did before.”

In addition to calling Governor Kasich, I also recommend donating to Planned Parenthood, if you can afford to do so.

(via Huffington Post, image via Marc Nozell on Flickr)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).