Ohio Governor John Kasich just signed into law a bill restricting a woman’s right to abortion in Ohio.
It’s not the anti-abortion bill that would have prohibited abortions at around six weeks – one that ignited protests, fury, and a media storm. Kasich vetoed this bill, known as the “heartbeat” bill, because it would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat could be heard.
Instead, he signed a less extreme, but still insidious, bill. The new Ohio law prohibits abortions past 20 weeks, with an exception for serious risk to the mother’s health, but no exceptions for rape and incest. Very few abortions are performed after 20 weeks. Those that do happen are most often needed to address complicated health issues.
The new law will be a profound assault on women and girls’ ability to control their fertility and bodies.
For example, a friend of mine – who had wanted to get pregnant – found out at the 20-week ultrasound that the fetus had a brain malformation. She only received a full diagnosis at 22 weeks. She and her husband decided to terminate the pregnancy in what she told me was, “the most heart-wrenching decision of our lives but the one we believed was best for our baby and our family.” She then added, “We are thankful we had the option.”
Similar laws to the new Ohio law have been enacted in 18 other states. Their aim: To chip away the legal protection afforded women by the US constitution under Roe v Wade.
It’s easy to be outraged by proposals like the “heartbeat” bill. At six weeks, many women and girls don’t even know they are pregnant. Most wouldn’t have had their first doctor’s appointment. A two-week window after a missed period is a preposterously small time frame for seeking an abortion.
Americans can expect a rush of new bills further restricting abortion, both as extreme as the heartbeat bill and as incrementally restrictive as the new 20-week ban in Ohio. Anti-abortion activists will also be seeking a case to threaten Roe v Wade and, in the meantime, keep introducing new proposals chipping away at limits.
At this moment, across the United States, reproductive rights are under attack.