In Ohio, a federal judge recently blocked a controversial abortion bill that would have made it illegal for women to obtain an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The preliminary injunction, totaling 12 pages, given by U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett stated that the law would have placed an “undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion.” The plaintiffs in the case included organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and Barrett claimed that they will likely succeed with their challenge, because the law (entitled S.B. 23) is “unconstitutional on its face.” The bill was originally signed into law on April 11th by Republican Governor Mike DeWine, only a day after it was passed by the Republican majority senate in the state. If successful, the bill would have come into law on July 11th. The bill’s power centered around the term “fetal heartbeat”, which can be detected by doctors as early as six weeks, which is often long before a woman will even know she is pregnant. Any doctors caught in violation of the abortion ban would be charged with a fifth-degree felony, which is punishable by up to a year in prison, along with loss of their license. The bill only included exceptions for women whose lives were at risk from the pregnancy, but nothing for those made pregnant in cases of rape and incest. Included in Barrett’s ruling was a summary of the plaintiff’s arguments, which included the point that many women might not even know they are pregnant before six weeks, thereby meaning they would have missed the window for an abortion. However, Barrett added in his summary that even “assuming a patient does know that she is pregnant, there are certain logistical obstacles to obtaining an abortion before six weeks in pregnancy.” He stated that these include things such as funds for the procedure, time off work, and even arranging transportation and support. Barrett also stated that this is why a large portion of Ohio’s abortions, “approximately 90%”, occur after six weeks of pregnancy. Freda Levenson, legal director of ACLU Ohio, agreed, stating: “Today the court has upheld the clear law: that women in Ohio have a constitutional right to make this deeply personal decision about their own bodies.” However, there are many of this “fetal heartbeat” laws in action in several other states, including Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana. Critics of the laws see these as a direct assault on the Roe v. Wade ruling, and are already challenging them in the courts.
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