What Just Happened?Ohio Just Effectively Banned Abortion

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(Photo credit: Screenshot from Amazon)

Our Take

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has signed into law a new ban on abortion after six weeks, effectively outlawing abortion in the state. SB23—which the Ohio legislature had the absolute nerve to call “The Human Rights Protection Act”—does not include exceptions for rape and incest, though it does allow for exceptions when a pregnancy is life-threatening. The new law is one of the most restrictive in the country: Given that few people even know they are pregnant by six weeks, it all but ensures that unwanted pregnancies will become forced childbirths.

You know what should really be banned? Antique Republican white men.

This is what all the fear-mongering rhetoric, the junk-science studies on fetal pain and “post-abortion syndrome,” the needless legislative measures mandating transvaginal ultrasounds and extra-wide clinic hallways, has always been leading up to. Congressional Republicans have been systematically chipping away at abortion access and rights for two decades, even as polls consistently show that a majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion. But now is when the wrecking ball really starts swinging.

Since January 2019, 12 states have introduced so-called heartbeat bills that outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Today’s decision makes Ohio the fifth state to sign that bill into law, alongside Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, and North Dakota. Georgia’s ban, passed in March, is likely to be next in line.

Of course, there’s been immediate and robust legal response against these bans by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood—which is exactly what these state legislatures are counting on. The long game has always been to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. Passing laws guaranteed to face constitutional challenges in ever-higher courts is the crucial first step.

Last month’s ghoulish, ginned-up outrage about “post-birth abortion” and the release this month of the film Unplanned are not timely coincidences. They’re part of a long game to which the anti-choice movement has devoted a wealth of strategy and resources. This is not just about Ohio or Kentucky or Mississippi or Iowa or North Dakota; it’s a coordinated effort with a goal that the anti-choice movement is terrifyingly close to realizing.


1. The six-week abortion ban known as the “heartbeat bill” is now law in Ohio. Read the ACLU of Ohio’s statement challenging the legislation. [NPR, ACLU]

2. Four states in addition to Ohio have passed similar six-week abortion bans: Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. Here is a closer look at what has happened with these bans in each state. [The Cut]

3. Last December, ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling broke down the likely strategic plan for bringing a challenge to Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court. [New York Times]

4. A big-picture look at how states are planning for a post-Roe reality. [NPR]

5. In better abortion news, a court in South Korea yesterday declared an abortion ban that’s been in place since 1953 unconstitutional—meaning that abortion in South Korea could soon become legal. [Washington Post]

6. The anti-abortion bill that failed to pass in Texas this week would have left the door open for abortion patients to be charged with homicide and sentenced to death. [Washington Post]

7. If you’re feeling discouraged, know that some judges are shutting these bills down. A federal judge has temporarily blocked Kentucky’s heartbeat bill. [New York Times]

8. Rewire.News’s legislative tracker lets you look up legislation—whether proposed, signed, or failed—related to abortion and access to reproductive-health services; search by state, by topic, and even by specific case. [Rewire News]

9. The new movie Unplanned is pretty much exactly what you’d expect—but did you know it was partially financed by the founder of scam-peddling pillow purveyor MyPillow? [The Guardian]


Donate to your state’s abortion fund, or to the National Network of Abortion Funds, or, hey, maybe both. NNAF provides a list of ways to fund and support their work—corporate matching gifts, bowl-a-thons, or donations via AmazonSmile. [National Network of Abortion Funds]

This is a great time to check out the new organization If/When/How—a “network of lawyers, law students, legal professionals, and movement organizers who are working to make reproductive freedom a reality for all”—and their strategic initiatives. [If/When/How]

April 11th–17th is Black Maternal Health Week, and you can get involved by joining or amplifying discussions on social media, tuning in to talks and webinars, and finding events in your area.  [Black Mamas Matter Alliance]

Let your elected representatives in Congress know that you will hold them accountable for these bans. Jam up those phone lines! [Call My Congress]


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