Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed one of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the nation into law last Thursday, after all of the state lawmakers representing Athens County voted for it.
The two men who represent most of Athens County – 94th District Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, and 30th District Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction – have voted for each version of Senate Bill 23, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” that has been introduced in the Ohio Legislature in recent years. The bill bans all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks, a point that comes before many women even realize they’re pregnant.
DeWine has directly connected his signing the bill into law with decades-long efforts by abortion foes to end Roe V. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb (roughly 24 weeks into a pregnancy). Similar legislation in other states has provoked immediate court challenges.
“Taking this action really is the time-honored tradition, the constitutional tradition of making a good-faith argument for modification, reversal of existing legal precedent,” DeWine said during the signing of the bill, according to Cleveland.com (the Cleveland Plain Dealer). “So this is exactly what this is, and the United States Supreme Court will ultimately make a decision.”
However, the ACLU of Ohio announced last week that it will challenge the abortion ban in court. The ACLU in its release noted that similar lawsuits have been filed against “heartbeat bills” in four other states, and the courts have struck down all of those abortion bans as unconstitutional.
Thursday after Gov. DeWine signed the bill NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland released the following statement: “Today and everyday, we will not accept barriers placed on abortion access by politicians or judges. We refuse to be intimidated by shame and stigma. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will. None of us will have reproductive freedom until all of us do. Gov. DeWine, we’ll see you in court.”
Rep. Edwards stated in an email last spring that he is “pro-life” and opposes abortion “except in the cases of rape, incest or danger to the woman’s life.”
“That being said, we cannot only care about life before a child is born,” he continued. “We must value life after birth as well. That is why I am focused on ensuring access to adequate nutrition, health care, education and opportunities that certain areas in our state are lacking, such as southeast Ohio.”
The bill in question in Ohio does not have any exceptions for rape or incest.
Hoagland has told The NEWS in the past that he “strongly” believes that “we have a duty to advocate on behalf of the unborn.” Hoagland was a co-sponsor of SB 23.
“I have dedicated my life to protecting the lives of others,” Hoagland has said. “If I believe that life begins at conception, which I do, I believe it is my duty and responsibility to protect our most vulnerable. Our caucus is committed to protecting the health and well-being of Ohio’s pregnant women and babies and this legislation reflects that commitment.”
Ohio 78th District State Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, who represents the northern tip of Athens County (Trimble Township) also voted for the bill. The 20th District Ohio Senate seat that covers that area is currently vacant.