[JURIST] Ohio Governor John Kasich [official website] on Wednesday signed into law a bill banning abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks. The legislation [SB 72 text, PDF] requires doctors to determine the viability of the fetus and seek a second opinion as to whether the child is capable of surviving outside of the womb. In the event that the fetus is viable, an abortion would only be made available if the woman faced “death or a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Ohio Right to Life [advocacy website] Executive Director Mike Gonidakis applauded [press release] the governor’s endorsement of the bill:
In order to protect life, it takes compassionate leadership from our elected officials. By signing this critical pro-life legislation, Governor Kasich demonstrated to all Ohioans that the health and welfare of birth mothers and their unborn children are of paramount importance to the state of Ohio … From now on, these babies and their mothers will be protected.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio [advocacy website], on the other hand, denounced the legislation [press release], calling it “a serious threat to women’s health that opens the door to even more political interference in the doctor-patient relationship.” Opponents of the law are attempting to gather signatures [Reuters report] supporting a November voter referendum to repeal the law. The law has yet to take effect.
Ohio’s legislation is part of a wave of acts passed by state legislatures since the November elections aimed at restricting abortions in the wake of disputed medical evidence that suggests that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks [Reuters report]. In June, the Ohio House of Representatives [official website] voted 54-43 to approve legislation [HB 125] that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable [JURIST report], which could occur as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. The Iowa House of Representatives [official website] also voted in June in favor of a bill [HF-1736 text, PDF] that would effectively ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy [JURIST report], making it the most restrictive abortion law in the country. In May, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the “abortion pill” [JURIST report], overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of mifepristone, and the drug is slated to be banned [JURIST reports] in North Dakota on August 1. Multiple states have acted to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when some studies suggest a fetus can begin feeling pain, including Missouri, Indiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Idaho [JURIST reports].