COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich signed one abortion-restricting bill Tuesday afternoon but used his line-item veto on another, drawing praise and criticism from both sides of the debate.
Kasich OK’d SB 127, which would ban abortions about 20 weeks after conception, when an unborn child could feel pain.
But he vetoed sections of HB 493, larger legislation that dealt with the reporting of child abuse and neglect, to quash the long-debated Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortions about six weeks after conception.
Abortion opponents, including Ohio Right to Life, opposed the Heartbeat language, saying it could undo other restrictions on the procedure that are already part of state law.
“I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life,” Kasich said in a released statement.
He added in his veto message that portions of HB 493 were “clearly contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States’ current rulings on abortion. Similar legislation enacted in two other states has twice been declared unconstitutional by federal judges, and the Supreme Court declined to review those decisions. Because the federal courts are bound to follow the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion, the amendment to Am. Sub. HB 493 will be struck down. The state of Ohio will be the losing party in that lawsuit and, as the losing party, the State of Ohio will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover the legal fees for the pro-choice activists’ lawyers.  Furthermore, such a defeat invites additional challenges to Ohio’s strong legal protections for unborn life. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.”
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday evening that a dozen other states have instituted 20-week bans. He called Kasich “the most pro-life “ governor and a national leader on the issue.
“We thank the governor for his leadership in doing this,” he said. “I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision… He made the right decision today.”
Backers of the Heartbeat Bill, however, urged lawmakers to reconvene and overturn Kasich’s veto.
"While Gov. Kasich betrayed life, broke his pro-life promises, and turned his back on 20,000 babies whose heartbeats can be heard, the battle is not over,” Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, said in a released statement. “We are just two votes away from overriding his veto in the Ohio House.”
She added, “Gov. Kasich's political career is over. We must now focus on those who want a future by voting to override Kasich's betrayal and give babies with beating hearts a future.”
Women’s health advocates also were quick to criticize the governor’s decision, though for different reasons.
“The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a released statement. “Once a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs access to safe and legal abortion care in her community. Kasich’s actions today will fall hardest on low-income women, women of color, and young women. History will not judge Gov. Kasich’s disregard for women’s health kindly.”
And Iris E. Harvey, head of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, added in a separate statement, “Every woman has the right to make her own personal health care decisions. Yet, John Kasich and the Ohio state legislature are intent on taking that right away …Women are tired of politicians telling us what to do with our bodies.”
Kasich’s signature on the 20-week ban and line-item veto of the Heartbeat Bill came hours after lawmakers sent both bills to the governor for his consideration.
The Heartbeat Bill has been offered in three consecutive sessions of the general assembly. The first time, it passed the Ohio House but stalled in the Senate. The second time, the bill failed to gain the required support to move it any further.
The Ohio House moved the Heartbeat Bill early in the session, and Republican senators added the language to unrelated legislation during one of their final voting sessions of the year.
Proponents believe the legislation could serve as the vehicle to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Opponents say the bill is a further intrusion into women's health decisions, and some abortion opponents are concerned that it could lead to court decisions undoing other abortion restrictions in current state law.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) said in a statement that we was grateful for the Heartbeat veto.
But, he added, “SB 127 is still a radical attack on women’s reproductive rights, as it does not include exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomaly. The governor’s decision will still cost Ohio thousands of dollars in legal fees at a time when we are ‘on the verge of recession,’ as the governor recently warned.”
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) said in a statement that the signing of the legislation marked the 18th abortion restriction Kasich had enacted as governor.
“Before Roe v. Wade, 5,000 women per year died from lack of access to safe and legal abortion and we are heading right back there,” she said. “Ohio’s GOP refuses to recognize women as pain-capable people with their own individual freedom and rights. This ban… is an insult to all women and a danger to their health and their lives.”
And Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan added in a separate statement, “There are too many scenarios, too many variables and too much complexity for pregnancy to be anything but a personal decision — and the vast majority of those faced with this difficult situation at 20 weeks are carrying a fetus that the doctor has told them has no chance of surviving.  Under this Ohio law, a woman who learns during a routine 20 week ultrasound that the fetus has no lungs or no brain will be forced to go through months of agony and carry to term. I cannot imagine the emotional and physical heartbreak that so many woman in these situations must feel, but I do know that Gov. Kasich didn’t think of them when he signed this law.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.