Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Tuesday imposing a 20-week abortion ban while vetoing stricter provisions in a separate measure that would have barred the procedure at the first detectable fetal heartbeat, the AP reports. The so-called heartbeat bill would have prohibited most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy—or before many women know they are pregnant. Its provisions cleared the Republican-led Legislature during a lame-duck flurry last week after being tucked into separate legislation. Similar measures elsewhere have faced legal challenges, and detractors in Ohio feared such legislation would lead to a costly fight in the courts. Opponents predicted it would be found unconstitutional, a concern Kasich shared.
Kasich, an abortion-rights opponent, chose instead to sign off on a 20-week ban similar to those now in effect in 15 states and blocked from enforcement in two others. The measures are based on the assertion that fetuses can feel pain then, which opponents characterize as scientifically unsound. Ohio lawmakers rejected a Democratic amendment that would have added exceptions for rape and incest. The 20-week ban "is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life," Kasich said. Kasich said the heartbeat provision would have been struck down based on other federal court rulings. Enacting the law would also invite challenges to current Ohio abortion prohibitions and would mean costly litigation. Ohio lawmakers still have the option to override Kasich's veto of the heartbeat bill. Doing so would require a three-fifths majority of each chamber. (Read more abortion stories.)