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Ohio governor signs ban on abortion after 1st heartbeat

Ohio GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Mike DeWine Attends Election Night In Columbus
Posted at 2:19 PM, Apr 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 11:00:40-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's governor has signed a bill imposing one of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine followed through Thursday on his pledge to sign the heartbeat bill. It cleared the state Legislature on Wednesday.

DeWine's signature makes Ohio the fifth state to ban abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That can come as early as five or six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant. Two of the similar bans passed in other states have been blocked by courts.

The bill will become effective 90 days after filing by the secretary of state, according to the governor's office.

DeWine's support for the bill breaks with his predecessor. Former Republican Gov. John Kasich twice vetoed it on grounds it was unconstitutional and would spark a costly court challenge.

Opponents in Ohio have already vowed to sue.

People opposed to the bill chanted, "We won't go back" outside the statehouse Thursday. Kersha Deibel, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, was with them.

"As the end of the day, it's a ban on abortion and it restricts access for women and people who need healthcare," Deibel said.

Under the bill, any doctor or other person who performs an abortion once a heartbeat is detectable faces a fifth-degree felony charge punishable by up to a year in prison, a $2,500 fine and suspension of their medical license.

"Whether it's a case of rape or incest, or a case where a woman just needs to access abortion care, that should be left up to her and not politicians," Deibel said.

Unlike other bills, Ohio's heartbeat bill does not have exceptions for rape and incest. There is an exception to preserve the health of the pregnant woman. Abortion providers would have to document those medical issues and keep copies of them for seven years.

Meg Wittman, executive director of Right to Life in North College Hill, is in favor of the bill.

"A heartbeat proves this is definitely a life," Wittman said. "We can hear it. We can see it."

Wittman said she supports the bill's strong language.

"We did not include exceptions for rape and incest because we believe that all life is precious, regardless of circumstance that we're still dealing with life," she said.

Wittman said it's just one step of a larger fight.

"We certainly are in favor of outlawing abortion completely, because we believe that it's murder," she said.

Deibel said Planned Parenthood will join the ACLU in fighting the bill.

"We have the most incredible supporters and activists that are going to fight this every step of the way," she said.