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Ohio prepares to instate 'heartbeat bill' if U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Karen Kasler

Ohio will almost certainly have strict limitations on abortion in short order if the U.S. Supreme Court does as a draft opinion published last week says and allows states to set their own regulations on the procedure.

That’s even if Republican lawmakers haven’t passed the so-called “trigger ban” on abortion that they’re considering.

Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, said the six-week ban known as the "heartbeat bill" was halted by a federal court because of the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey rulings that upheld abortion rights.

"If Roe and Casey do in fact get overturned, then I would anticipate that we would move to lift that stay and that law passed by the general assembly would become effective," Yost said.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has said he would sign a total abortion ban that would be triggered by the overturning of Roe, which would make the six-week abortion ban moot. Thirteen states already have "trigger" bans in place.

DeWine signed the "heartbeat bill" in 2019, after former Gov. John Kasich vetoed a previous version of it in 2018, just before leaving office. DeWine wouldn't say then if he would sign a total ban on abortion, only that “We need to wait and see what happens in the United States Supreme Court before we do anything else."

That was before the rushed appointment by former president Donald Trump of Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg was appointed by former president Bill Clinton in 1993.

Several states also have what have been called "zombie" abortion bans — laws that were on the books when the Roe decision came down in 1973. They haven't been enforced, but haven't been repealed either. Those could be revived if Roe is overturned. Yost said he's unaware if Ohio has such laws. Right now, abortion is legal in Ohio during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

That "trigger ban" is sponsored by a third of the Republicans in the Ohio House, but there’s only been one hearing. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will likely come next month.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.