Texas has been in the news recently. If you've been living under a rock the last couple of weeks or have avoided social media, let's quickly go over what’s been happening in the Lone Star State.
The Texas Legislature, back in May, enacted SB 8, otherwise known as the “Texas Heartbeat Act”. It went into effect Sept. 1 and was instantly met with challenges by organizations like Planned Parenthood whose CEO, Alexis McGill, said that the Texas abortion law is “emblematic of vigilante justice.”
The “vigilante justice” that McGill speaks of is the enforcement mechanism built into the Texas Legislation that led to Texas abortion providers being unable to seek judicial actions preemptively. As Ed Kilgore of the Intelligencer writes “The law not only proscribes abortions but exposes to civil lawsuits anyone “abetting” such an abortion in any way.”
So how does the Texas Heartbeat bill hold up compared to what we currently have going on here in the Buckeye State?
In 2019, Ohio dealt with SB 23, the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” which was passed by the Ohio Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. However, challenges by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood led to Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S District Court of Southern District of Ohio, based in Cincinnati, blocking the legislation from being enforced.
Like its Texas counterpart, SB 23 claimed to prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This can occur up to six weeks into pregnancy. The criticism for both restrictive laws was most women are not aware that they are pregnant at 6 weeks into a possible pregnancy. Also found in both laws are the lack of exceptions for cases of rape and incest and only when a women’s life or health is at risk. This is following in a similar path of abortion bills found in largely Republican-controlled states like Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi.
So, what does this mean for women that wish to have an abortion procedure here in Ohio?
With the U.S District Court’s blocking SB 23, the legal timetable for an abortion in Ohio is 20 weeks or 21 1/2 weeks from a women’s last period. This puts Ohio back in the middle of the pack for abortion access among other U.S states.
So, what does this mean going into the future? Well, for those who support the abortion rights movement, the battle might be an uphill one.
The Ohio Legislature is solidly held by Republicans, and with the redistricting pen under their control, that is unlikely to change barring a “Blue Wave.” DeWine is running for reelection and is facing steep competition from not only the Democratic Party but also from within his own party as criticism about his COVID-19 policies has led to rising tension about the Republican ranks.
With the Texas law breaking through barriers that have stopped similar laws like Ohio’s SB 23, Republicans in the state legislature might feel the time is right to reintroduce a similar bill to the one that is currently being blocked by a U.S District Court. Unless the federal government were to get involved (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that there might be federal legislation on the table) it looks like the anti-abortion movement is gaining momentum to undermine the bane of the movement’s existence: Roe v. Wade.