Kasich vetoes ‘heartbeat bill,’ signs less restrictive abortion ban – USA TODAY
COLUMBUS – Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday rejectedÂ theÂ so-called âheartbeat bill,âÂ breaking with his party to veto legislation that would have given Ohio the strictest abortion ban in the nation.
Kasich did tighten Ohio’s abortion laws by signing a bill that would prevent abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, when opponents of the procedureÂ say fetuses can feel pain.
Still, the governor will face backlash from conservative Republicans for killing the bill they say would haveÂ prevented thousands of abortions. The measure prohibited the procedureÂ after a fetal heartbeat was detected, as early asÂ six weeksâ gestation.
“Governor Kasich’s political career is over,” said Janet Porter, a northeast Ohio activistÂ who picketed the homes of Republican lawmakers and recruited primary opponents for those who opposed her bill.Â “We must now focus on those who want a future by voting to override Kasich’s betrayal and give babies with beating hearts a future.”
Still, it seems unlikely that Republican lawmakersÂ will have enough votes to overrideÂ Kasich’s veto before the new legislative session kicks off January 3.
Even the passage of the heartbeat bill initially came as a surprise. After years of avoiding the bill, many Republican lawmakers,Â such as Senate President Keith Faber of Celina, were urged by Porter and emboldened byÂ Donald Trump’s recent election to pass the heartbeat bill as an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. They were countingÂ on new Trump-appointed, conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices to side with them.
Kasich, who refused to endorse Trump’s presidential bid,Â stopped that effort, the latest in his increasingly common clashes with Republicans closer to home.Â He also has threatened to rejectÂ a freeze of renewable energy standards.
âOnce I can get (lawmakers) off of some of this crazy stuff they are doing, maybe I can get them to focus on some stuff that is meaningful,â Kasich told business leaders and legislators at a Tuesday meeting before vetoing the heartbeat bill.
In rejecting thatÂ ban, Kasich pointed to judicial precedent, saying the legislation was “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United Statesâ current rulings on abortion.â Ohio Right to Life, Democrats and several Republican lawmakers agreed the heartbeat bill was unconstitutional and would cost Ohio taxpayers money to defend it. Federal courts struck down similar measures inÂ North Dakota and Arkansas.
âThe State of Ohio will be the losing party in a lawsuit and, as the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activistsâ lawyers,â KasichÂ wrote in a veto message. (Read the full veto message below.)
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis praised Kasich’s restraint in light of the “the current make-up of a radically pro-abortion Supreme Court.”
Republican lawmakers would need three-fifths of each chamber to override Kasich’s veto. The Ohio Senate passed theÂ bill by more than that margin on Dec. 6, but the Ohio House vote was under that threshold.
TheÂ 20-week ban, which Kasich signed, will restrict access to abortion while still chipping away at Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents such as Gonidakis argue. It does not includeÂ exceptions for rape, incest or severe fetal anomalies. It does include an exception to save the life of aÂ pregnant woman.
More than a dozen states have a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. Still, those could be overturned or taken to the Supreme Court for ruling. Current Supreme Court standards say states may not limit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, generally accepted as 24 weeks’ gestation.
Abortion rightsÂ supporters seemÂ torn on how to respond to Kasich’s veto. They celebrated a victory with the heartbeat billâs defeat, but they also adamantly opposed the 20-week ban, which wasÂ seen as an extension of Ohio Republicans’ continued fight to reduce access to abortions.Â The state had 14 abortion clinics in 2013 and now has nine. Cincinnati has one surgical abortion clinic,Â Planned Parenthood clinic in Mount Auburn, and itÂ nearly lost its license to operate last year.
âDonât let John Kasich fool you. He is one of the most extreme anti-abortion governors in this country. Kasich is on a mission to make abortion illegal in Ohio, and heâs intent on using smoke and mirrors and backdoor politics to do it,â said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.
Few abortions are performed after 20 weeks in Ohio. Last year, 145 abortions occurred at 21 weeks or later, according to Ohio Department of Health records. The 20-week ban will take effect in 90 days.