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Kasich signs late-term abortion ban

Viability test required at 20 weeks' pregnancy

Governor-John-Kasich

Governor John Kasich

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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COLUMBUS — Republican Gov. John Kasich Wednesday signed into law a late-term abortion ban that supporters say protects life and critics call dangerous and a violation of women’s rights.

House Bill 78 bans abortions when a doctor determines a fetus can live outside the womb — a condition known as viability. Doctors would be required to test for viability when a woman is 20 weeks pregnant or more.

“The governor is pro-life, has been pro-life throughout his career, and believes strongly in the sanctity of human life,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.

The law will take effect after 90 days.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio condemned the ban. Although there is an exception to the ban if a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, the abortion-rights group said the ban’s health exception is too narrow and does not include cases of rape or incest.

Mr. Kasich “and the Ohio legislature are endangering women’s health because they don’t trust women and their doctors to make personal, private decisions for themselves,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Five other states have passed the same legislation and 39 other states have some type of late-term abortion ban, according to Ohio Right to Life.

The organization is confident the ban will withstand legal challenges.

“By signing this critical pro-life legislation, Governor Kasich demonstrated to all Ohioans that the health and welfare of mothers and their unborn children are of paramount importance to the state of Ohio,” Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Mike Gonidakis said.

The governor’s office also released a statement: “Life is a gift from God, and one way that we express our ongoing gratitude for it is by respecting it. This bill does that in a very fundamental way, and I’m proud to have signed it into law.”

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R., Kettering) said the 20-weeks measure could prevent 200 abortions a year.

“If ever there was a piece of legislation that we ought to be able to find common ground on, it is this one,’’ she said last week. “The only abortions that are prohibited by this legislation are those that will end the life of babies capable of surviving outside their mother’s womb.’’

“Even the good Lord gives us choice,’’ Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland) said. “But House Bill 78 seeks to take away that choice. … The state of Ohio should not be in the business of deciding a woman’s right to choose. This bill denies a woman her individual right, her civil rights, and her human rights to have control over her body.’’

The late-term abortion ban is among numerous anti-abortion bills the GOP-controlled legislature has proposed this year.

The House of Representatives has approved the “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Senate has not yet voted on that measure.

Some who are against abortion rights prefer the measure the governor signed Wednesday over the “heartbeat bill” because they think it stands a better chance of being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supporters of the “heartbeat bill” plan to push for passage in the Ohio Senate this fall, hoping to use it as a vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that upheld a woman’s right to privacy when it came to abortion decisions.

The Ohio House also has passed a bill that would restrict insurance coverage for abortions and another that would make it more difficult for minors to get a juvenile court judge’s permission to get an abortion without parental consent.

The Blade’s Columbus bureau contributed to this report.

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