Ohio’s controversial “Heartbeat Bill” has been blocked by a federal court, just days before it was slated to go into enforcement on July 11. The ruling is a temporary win for pro-reproductive rights activists and Planned Parenthood, ensuring that abortion clinics in the state of Ohio can stay open. But, the war over a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy is only ramping up.
The law would have banned abortions in the state of Ohio after six weeks, the earliest time in a
pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat may be detected and well before many women know they are
pregnant. There were to be no exceptions for rape or incest, although there would be
exceptions when the life of the mother was in danger. The law would have classified violations
as fifth-degree felonies, carrying up to one year in jail time and up to $2,500 in fines as a
The halt was ordered by Judge Michael Barrett of the Southern District of Ohio U.S. District Court. Barrett pointed out that the bill placed an “undue burden” on a woman seeking to terminate a pre-viability pregnancy. The law was on its face unconstitutional, a blatant attempt to overturn the federal government’s long standing decision to give women the right to the decisions regarding their bodies. Conservatives have tried to limit bodily autonomy well before women had the right to abortions; however, they fail to attack problems like infant poverty and child hunger with the same veracity.
The bill was part of a larger strategy that’s occurred nationwide at the hands of Republican
lawmakers. The right to an abortion will stand nationally as long as Supreme Court rulings,
including Roe v. Wade, remain in effect. By hammering out heartbeat bills nationwide,
conservatives increase their chances of getting a ruling appealed up to the Supreme Court and
from there the conservative-leaning court overturning Roe.
Abortions are not only justified in the case of rape or incest, which has been a clickbait-inducing
theme around this controversy. Abortion is a part of reproductive healthcare, a procedure nearly
one in four women have before the age of 45. If lawmakers are so concerned about decreasing
abortion rates, presumably because of a concern for the lives of the fetuses, they should fund
comprehensize sex education and support for impoverished children already in this country.
The right to an abortion goes further than an outright ban. Strict regulations are a backdoor way
to limit abortions, claiming to regulate the abortion providers for safety purposes. The state of
Missouri famously has just one embattled abortion clinic still open and providing procedures,
with the fight to keep the clinic licensed and running regularly boiling down to the wire in the
past several months.
It is easy to move on from this debate when a new shocking headline runs about the state of
politics or the crisis at the border. Wins like this, though important, cannot be accepted as
permanent. As long as conservative lawmakers are proposing bills and regulations that limit
abortion care, there is a battle to be fought, because we won’t go back.