By Marc Kovac
Reaction was swift from abortion-rights and anti-abortion advocates regarding Gov. John Kasich signing one abortion-restricting bill but using his line-item veto on another.
Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 127, which would ban abortions about 20 weeks after conception, when an unborn child could feel pain.
But he vetoed sections of House Bill 493, larger legislation that dealt with the reporting of child abuse and neglect, to quash the long-debated Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortions about six weeks after conception.
Abortion opponents, including Ohio Right to Life, opposed the Heartbeat language, saying it could undo other restrictions on the procedure that already are part of state law.
“I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life,” Kasich said in a statement.
He added in his veto message that portions of HB 493 were “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion. 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 amendment to Am. Sub. HB 493 will be struck down.”
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, said in a statement that he was grateful for the Heartbeat veto.
But, he added, “SB 127 is still a radical attack on women’s reproductive rights, as it does not include exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomaly. The governor’s decision will still cost Ohio thousands of dollars in legal fees at a time when we are ‘on the verge of recession,’ as the governor recently warned.”
And U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, added in a separate statement, “There are too many scenarios, too many variables and too much complexity for pregnancy to be anything but a personal decision – and the vast majority of those faced with this difficult situation at 20 weeks are carrying a fetus that the doctor has told them has no chance of surviving.
“Under this Ohio law, a woman who learns during a routine 20 week ultrasound that the fetus has no lungs or no brain will be forced to go through months of agony and carry to term. I cannot imagine the emotional and physical heartbreak that so many woman in these situations must feel, but I do know that Gov. Kasich didn’t think of them when he signed this law.”
State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, was similarly pleased with Kasich’s veto, but was still critical of the governor’s decision to sign the 20 week ban.
“It’ll force a lot of hardship on people,” Lepore-Hagan said. “What we really need to be doing is talking about prevention and focusing on education. If you want to stop unwanted pregnancies, you do it through education.”
Lepore-Hagan said that while Kasich’s veto will save taxpayers from a lengthy and expensive legal battle surrounding the bill, a similarly expensive legal battle to combat the 20-week ban is likely on the horizon.
State Rep. Tim Ginter of Salem, R-5th, was also experiencing a mixture of relief and disappointment, though for opposite reasons.
“For those of us who stand for life and for pro-life legislation, we’re disappointed that the governor vetoed the Heartbeat bill,” Ginter said. “However I felt – as did many others – that the 20-week ban was far more likely to survive the governor’s veto as well as potential challenges in the courts. I’m encouraged, it’s a step in the right direction.”
Ginter pointed to the success of 20-week abortion bans in 13 other states as evidence the legislation can survive legal challenges at the state level.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, called Kasich “the most pro-life” governor and a national leader on the issue.
“We thank the governor for his leadership in doing this,” he said. “I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision. ... He made the right decision today.”
Backers of the Heartbeat Bill, however, urged lawmakers to reconvene and overturn Kasich’s veto.
“While Gov. Kasich betrayed life, broke his pro-life promises, and turned his back on 20,000 babies whose heartbeats can be heard, the battle is not over,” Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, said in a released statement. “We are just two votes away from overriding his veto in the Ohio House.”
Women’s health advocates also were quick to criticize the governor’s decision, though for different reasons.
“The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a released statement. “Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe and legal abortion care in her community. Kasich’s actions today will fall hardest on low-income women, women of color, and young women. History will not judge Gov. Kasich’s disregard for women’s health kindly.”
And Iris E. Harvey, head of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, added in a separate statement, “Every woman has the right to make her own personal health care decisions. Yet, John Kasich and the Ohio state legislature are intent on taking that right away. ... Women are tired of politicians telling us what to do with our bodies.”
The Heartbeat Bill has been offered in three consecutive sessions of the general assembly. The first time, it passed the Ohio House but stalled in the Senate. The second time, the bill failed to gain the required support to move it any further.
The Ohio House moved the Heartbeat Bill early in the session, and Republican senators added the language to unrelated legislation during one of their final voting sessions of the year.
Proponents believe the legislation could serve as the vehicle to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Opponents say the bill is a further intrusion into women’s health decisions, and some abortion opponents are concerned that it could lead to court decisions undoing other abortion restrictions in current state law.
Contributor: Staff writer Graig Graziosi