Ohio Governor Kasich Threatens to Veto Pro-Life Heartbeat Bill

By Zachary Stieber

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has threatened to veto a pro-life bill that prohibits abortions after a heartbeat has been detected in a fetus.

The legislation is known as the Heartbeat Bill. It means that the ban on abortions could apply to mothers as early as six weeks into their pregnancy.

Kasich said on Nov. 19 that he would veto the bill if it reached his desk during the state Legislature’s current lame-duck session, reported the Columbus Dispatch. He vetoed the bill two years ago but signed a 20-week abortion ban at the same time.

The House passed the bill on Nov. 15 by a margin wide enough to override a veto but the Senate has yet to vote on the bill.

“This bill basically says if there is a heartbeat you cannot abort. If there is a heartbeat, there is life … there is no debating that,” said Republican state Rep. Ron Hood, a primary sponsor, after the bill passed, reported the Dayton Daily News. “We can finally save these babies from being slaughtered before they’re even born.”

Republican state Rep. Candice Keller said the bill would save 20,000 babies from being aborted every year in the state.

Many Democrats opposed the bill and one, state Rep. Nickie Antonio, said she didn’t like how the bill doesn’t have an exception for pregnancy resulting from incest or rape.

“Victims of rape should not have additional control of their bodies taken away from them,” Antonio said, reported the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “It should be a survivor’s decision to make.”

Next Step: Senate

Once a bill passes both the House and the Senate, it takes several days to land on the governor’s desk; he then has 10 days to sign it or veto it. If he does neither, the bill becomes law.

The Heartbeat Bill would need a veto-proof majority, and supporters could have trouble gathering enough votes if it takes too much longer to vote on it due to the holidays, according to the Dispatch.

Kasich also said he’d veto a Stand Your Ground bill that would enable gun owners to defend themselves. That bill also passed the House with a veto-proof majority and is expected to be voted on soon in the Senate.

The planned veto on the Heartbeat bill was slammed by pro-life groups. “I’ve often defended John Kasich’s record to protect life in Ohio over the past 8 years. We’ve cut the number of abortion clinics in half, & decreased abortion by 25%. But now we have the opportunity to take bold action to save thousands, & possibly overturn Roe, & he’s walked away,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values.

Groups opposing the bill include NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R), smiles alongside Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, during a news conference in Waverly, Ohio, on Nov. 13, 2018. (John Minchillo/AP)

Wait for DeWine?

Gov.-elect Mike DeWine has indicated support for the ideas the bills outline but not the specific bills. Republican Senate President Larry Obhof said that he would be surprised if a majority doesn’t vote for both bills.

“My anticipation is we’ll pass both and see how things unfold after that,” Obhof told the Dispatch, although he noted that all Republicans haven’t agreed to hold votes on the bills. “I’d be very surprised if a majority of the members was not in favor of doing both of these.”

Lawmakers could override Kasich’s hypothetical vetoes with 20 votes.

“There’s also a question of, does Mike DeWine want to work with us on those issues in January,” Obhof said. “Are these things better dealt with right now, even though we will have to push back on the governor, or could they just as easily be done on Jan. 20?”