COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Supreme Court ruling Friday drastically changed the options for pregnant people across the country, including in Ohio.
In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority struck down the constitutional right to an abortion, opening the door for states to set their own standards for abortion access. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan jointly filed a dissenting opinion.
“With sorrow – for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection – we dissent,” the three judges wrote.
Within hours, a law prohibiting abortion as soon as a heartbeat could be detected in a fetus was reenacted in Ohio, with a federal judge lifting an injunction against it.
The decision reached in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned two cases that set the standard for abortion access in the country for nearly 50 years: the 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade and the 1992 ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The former determined a constitutional right to abortion, and the latter deemed illegal any restrictions on abortion that constituted an “undue burden” on a patient seeking an abortion prior to a fetus’ viability.
Even before the Dobbs ruling, Ohio legislators had been anticipating it, with two bills under consideration at the Statehouse that would have gone into effect as soon as Roe was overturned.
Two ‘trigger’ bills pending in the Statehouse
Both titled the Human Life Protection Act, two “trigger” bills pending before the Ohio General Assembly — one in the House and one in the Senate — would immediately prohibit abortion if they’re approved in both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine.
“It’s known as a trigger ban because it will be triggered by the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Mary Parker, director of legislative affairs at Ohio Right to Life, told NBC4 in February.
The legislation would allow for exceptions in cases where the patient’s life is in danger by providing an affirmative defense for physicians who are criminally charged after providing an abortion.
It would be up to an individual prosecutor or jury, however, to determine the validity of a physician’s claim that the service was provided to save the pregnant person’s life.
Doctors who determine an abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life must receive approval from a second physician “not professionally related to them,” the bills state.
SB 123 and HB 598 have yet to be voted on in the General Assembly and remain under the purview of the Senate Health Committee and the House Government Oversight Committee, respectively.
‘Heartbeat’ bill in effect
In 2019, DeWine signed a “heartbeat” bill into law that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as six weeks into pregnancy — often before many women know they’re pregnant.
A federal judge had blocked its enforcement with a preliminary injunction, ruling that it violated the constitutional right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade and presented an “undue burden” to abortion access as prohibited under Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
A judge ruled in Attorney General Dave Yost‘s favor after his office filed a motion in federal court to dissolve the injunction against Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“If they (the trigger bans) pass and go through all the chambers in the Statehouse and are signed into law, it will still take 90 days for that trigger ban to go into effect,” Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio spokesperson Aileen Day said recently. “So we’re really first worried about that six-week ban.”
Sens. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) introduced a joint resolution to add an amendment to the Ohio Constitution affirming abortion rights in late May, but it’s unlikely to survive in the GOP-dominated Statehouse.
Read the full ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court below: