Ohio's six-week abortion ban becomes law hours after Supreme Court's Dobbs decision

·3 min read

Abortions in Ohio are now illegal once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The news came Friday evening in the form of a ruling from a federal court judge who lifted the nearly three-year injunction on the law following the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday morning. Judge Michael Barrett granted the state's request to lift an injunction in place since 2019.

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"The heartbeat law has been sitting on the sidelines in federal court which could’ve saved countless lives over the past several years," Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a statement. "Starting right now no baby with a beating heart can be aborted in the state of Ohio."

What does Ohio's new six-week abortion law mean for the state?

Dubbed the "heartbeat bill," the law criminalizes all abortions performed after the detection of fetal cardiac activity, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy (four weeks after conception).

The Ohio Department of Health doesn't track how many abortions happen at the six-week mark, but about 38% of abortions performed in Ohio in 2020 (7,866) happened after nine weeks gestation.

Meghan Meeker, left, is comforted by Beth Vild as they join other local women on Akron City Councilwoman Nancy Holland's front porch to discuss the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.
Meghan Meeker, left, is comforted by Beth Vild as they join other local women on Akron City Councilwoman Nancy Holland's front porch to discuss the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.

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Patients seeking what would now be illegal abortions would not be prosecuted under this new law, but providers could face fifth-degree felony charges and up to one year in prison. The law has an exception to save the life of a patient but no exceptions for rape or incest.

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Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, said the injunction was lifted much quicker than anticipated.

"We thought we had weeks," Copeland said. "This is much faster than anyone anticipated."

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She recommended patients seeking abortions contact clinics to get instructions on next steps, which might include going to another state. She said groups like Women Have Options provide money and assistance for those seeking abortions.

"There is a strong community behind people who need abortion care," Copeland said. They can lean on us now."

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Ohio Republicans like Gov. Mike DeWine have consistently expressed reluctance to prosecute people who seek abortions, and Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau that policing what Ohioans do in other states isn't likely to happen.

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"If someone is going to go to New York to have an abortion, we’re not going to know that and we’re not going to be able to prevent that," Huffman said Friday. "People go to Colorado to smoke marijuana recreationally."

Mary Ann Berning of Kettering reacts to the fall of Roe v Wade Friday, June 24, 2022. She fell to her knees to pray just steps from the Women’s Med Center in Kettering.
Mary Ann Berning of Kettering reacts to the fall of Roe v Wade Friday, June 24, 2022. She fell to her knees to pray just steps from the Women’s Med Center in Kettering.

What about the legal challenge against Ohio's 'heartbeat bill'?

As for what will happen to the legal challenge against the "heartbeat bill," attorney Jessie Hill said the case is not over, the case has not been dismissed and her legal team is considering all options on how to move forward.

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"State courts can interpret their constitutions independently of the federal courts," Hill said. Ohio has protections for due process, healthcare freedom and is "different in important ways from the federal constitution" including higher protections for personal freedoms.

Read the full text of the newly in-place law below.

Ohio Senate Bill 23 - 'Heartbeat' abortion ban by CincinnatiEnquirer on Scribd

Anna Staver is a reporter with the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. It serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio bans abortions after six weeks following Roe v. Wade ruling