Gov. Mike DeWine signed the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act, colloquially called the Ohio Heartbeat Bill and formally known as Senate Bill 23, into law on April 11. The law prohibits abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detected in the fetus, which can be as early as six weeks into the pregnancy. Previously, Ohio law allowed abortions up to 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
As DeWine prepared to sign Senate Bill 23 into law, he gave a short introduction, stating that “the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us. Those who do not have a voice. Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end. To protect those who cannot protect themselves, such as … the unborn.”
He explained to those in attendance that “the signing of this bill today is consistent with that respect for life, and the imperative to protect those that cannot protect themselves.”
DeWine left no doubt about the future goals for the bill, explaining that “we have a vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court, so that should it be ready to do so, it could revisit some prior rulings.” The prior ruling in question is Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that allows women abortions until fetal viability.
After signing the bill into law, DeWine answered a few questions. When asked about whether knowingly passing a bill that is unconstitutional violates the oath that he took, DeWine responded, “If you look back in history, there are decisions made by the United States Supreme Court that were the law of the land … that’s not the law of the land today.” DeWine provided Plessy v. Ferguson, a landmark Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation in schools, as a comparable example.
DeWine’s signature makes Ohio the fifth state to ban abortions on the basis of a fetal heartbeat. In two of the states that have passed heartbeat bans, courts have blocked the laws for being unconstitutional.