In an action that drew divided response from the pro-life community, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Dec. 13 banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and vetoed a measure outlawing abortion following detection of a fetal heartbeat.
The 20-week ban includes an exception only for saving the life of the mother, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The so-called “Heartbeat Bill” would have banned most abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.
Kasich, a Republican, said in a statement he strives "to strengthen Ohio's protections for the sanctity of human life" but believes enacting a fetal heartbeat law is not a wise legal strategy at present.
"Certain provisions" of the Heartbeat Bill—Amended Substitute House Bill 493—"are clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States' current rulings on abortion," Kasich said.
"Similar legislation enacted in two other states has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal judges, and the Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. Because the federal courts are bound to follow the Supreme Court's rulings on abortion," the bill "will be struck down," Kasich said.
"The state of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and, as the losing party, the state of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists' lawyers," Kasich said. "Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio's strong legal protections for unborn life. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest."
The bill Kasich signed—Senate Bill 127—imposes the 20-week ban based on evidence babies aborted after that point can feel pain.
"I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading pro-life advocates," Kasich said, "that S.B. 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life."
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis thanked Kasich for saving "hundreds of unborn lives each year" and positioning Ohio "to directly challenge" the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion ruling. He added that vetoing the Heartbeat Bill "required the governor to exercise great restraint."
Heartbeat laws that have been ruled unconstitutional "never took effect and saved not one unborn life," Gonidakis said. "Legal scholars believe that asking the Court to entertain a third heartbeat law at this time would cause irreparable harm to the pro-life movement."
Even if President-elect Donald Trump fills the current Supreme Court vacancy with a pro-life justice, Gonidakis said, the court likely will retain "a pro-abortion majority."
Janet Porter, president of the pro-life group Faith2Action, views Kasich's veto differently.
The governor, Porter said in a statement, "betrayed life, broke his pro-life promises and turned his back on 20,000 babies whose heartbeats can be heard."
Porter added that "the battle is not over" and urged the state legislature to override Kasich's veto.
While the Senate passed the Heartbeat Bill by a veto-proof majority, the 56 votes it received in the House fell short of the 60 needed for a three-fifths override vote, The Dispatch reported.
Ohio law already forbids abortions after 24 weeks, with those between 20 and 24 weeks requiring "a medical finding that the fetus is not viable," according to The Dispatch.
Some 145 of nearly 21,000 abortions in Ohio last year occurred after 20 weeks, The Dispatch reported.