Pro-life Ohio Governor John Kasich has two abortion bills on his desk. One would ban abortions after the 20th week and would align Ohio with several other states who have such laws. The other is a groundbreaking bill that would ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which usually happens around the sixth week after conception.
If he signs Senate Bill 127, Ohio will be at the front of an increasingly crowded pack of states that are creeping the limits on abortions closer to conception. Nearly half of the states ban abortions “post-viability” or at the 24th week. The most aggressive current ban matches SB 127’s 20 weeks.
The “Heartbeat Bill” would push the ban much further than any state has successfully managed to sustain. If a heartbeat is detected before or during an abortion, the doctor would be forced to halt the procedure. What makes it even more controversial is that it has no exceptions for rape or incest. Kasich has held to a moderate pro-life perspective that allows for exceptions.
Signing either bill will bring about legal challenges and if Donald Trump is true to his word (I know, don’t say it), he’ll put pro-life judges on the benches, including the current open seat on the Supreme Court. If Kasich signs either bill, chances are nearly certain that Trump’s pick for SCOTUS will already be confirmed before legal challenges reach the highest court.
There’s something else to consider. Since there are appropriations attached to House Bill 493, the “Heartbeat Bill,” Kasich has line-item veto powers. He could sign his own variation of the bill. That wouldn’t prevent the challenges, but it may make it more palatable for a positive Supreme Court ruling.
If there was ever a time to test the courts’ stomach for aggressive abortion bans, now would be the time to do it for several reasons. First, it would put more pressure on Trump to keep his promise to pro-life voters. Second, testing the judiciary waters will give pro-life activists information on how to proceed in other states. Some consider this dangerous; setting a negative precedent could set back the movement. Those who would argue against signing the “Heartbeat Bill” would likely say they would rather have at least one more pro-life justice at SCOTUS just to be sure. This argument is flawed to me from a pro-life perspective because more preborn babies are killed with every moment spent seeking an ideal judiciary situation.
The most important reason Kasich should sign the “Heartbeat Bill” is to take a shot at opening the floodgates. Democrats have practiced the art of kicking down the political door for decades. When Republicans get too strategic, too pragmatic with their decisions rather than being as opportunistic as their foes, they miss opportunities. Kasich can take the small crack that’s been presented to him and attempt to kick down the door. Waiting for it to open a little more before acting would be foolish.
Ideally, he would sign both bills. While I’m not sure about the legalities of redundant bills working simultaneously, it would be nice to have both bills challenged rather than waiting to see what happens to one before proceeding with the other.
While Kasich has never struck me as someone who worries about his legacy too much, signing the “Heartbeat Bill” would potentially put him in the history books as the first big domino to fall towards a future challenge of Roe v. Wade. It would have to be upheld to become a legacy item, but if it sticks, he would be a pro-life hero.
John Kasich has an opportunity to save lives. He can go bold or he can go historic. We’ll know which direction he chooses next week. Activists on both sides of the debate will be watching very closely.