A bill imposing one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation was signed into law in Ohio on Thursday, banning abortions after a detectable heartbeat in a long-sought victory for abortion opponents that drew an immediate constitutional challenge. In signing the heartbeat bill, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine broke with his predecessor, Republican John Kasich, who had vetoed the measure twice on grounds that it was unconstitutional, the AP reports. But DeWine defended Ohio Republicans' decision to push the boundaries of the law, because "it is the right thing to do." "Taking this action really is a kind of a time-honored tradition, the constitutional tradition of making a good faith argument for modification or reversal of existing legal precedents," he said.
DeWine said it's the government's job to protect the vulnerable. The bill outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which doctors say can be as early as five weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. It makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Even before the bill was signed, the ACLU of Ohio said it was preparing a constitutional challenge to the law on behalf of Pre-Term Cleveland and three other Ohio abortion clinics. The legal fight is what the bill's backers have always wanted. They hope to provoke a legal challenge with the potential to overturn the US Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks. "The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade," says Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis. (Read more abortion stories.)