U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, clearing path to possible Ohio abortion ban
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade, a landmark case on abortion, which now allows each state to decide if they want to make the procedure illegal. Republican lawmakers, who have a supermajority at the Ohio Statehouse, are poised to make abortion illegal, but Democrats say it's not over yet.
In the court’s ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the main argument from defenders of Roe has come down to rights protected under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Alito wrote — while the provision has been held to guarantee “some rights” not mentioned in the constitution — any such right was “deeply rooted” in the nation’s history.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote in the majority opinion.
U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan wrote a joint dissenting opinion. The justices emphasized that the constitutional rights established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey — which held up Roe in 1992 — have protected the “liberty and equality of women” for half a century.
“Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions,” the justices wrote in their dissenting opinion.
There are six clinics that provide surgical and medication abortions in Ohio. Republican lawmakers have said they will take action to ban abortions within the framework provided by the supreme court's ruling.
So, the big question is: how soon that will happen?
No immediate legislative action
Ohio lawmakers went on summer break in early June without passing a "trigger" ban to stop abortions in the state once the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade — a move that was expected by the court after a draft opinion was leaked in May. There are two versions of that bill, with one in the House and the other in the Senate.
Lawmakers in a House committee held controversial hearings on a House bill, HB598, in May. It's had three hearings in the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee.
A Senate bill, SB123, had two hearings last fall in the Senate Health committee. But it has been stalled in that committee ever since. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) indicated he'd like to wait to see the high court's ruling and passing a total abortion ban rather than a "trigger" ban out of that chamber.
Instating the 'heartbeat' law
Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, has already asked a federal court to immediately put the so-called "heartbeat law" into effect if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
That bill, which bans abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant — was proposed several times before it passed and was signed into law in 2019. It's considered one of the most restrictive in the country.
But it was put on hold by a federal court because the judge ruled it put an "undue burden on a woman's right to choose a pre-viability abortion." But now, with Roe gone, that right to a pre-viability abortion no longer exists.
Reaction from Ohio advocates
Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, issued a statement to celebrate the decision and to call on Ohio leaders to work on ending abortion “once and for all” in the state.
“While we should pause to reflect and give thanks for this life affirming decision, we must also recognize that our work is far from over. We will continue to labor every day until all life – from conception until natural death – is protected under Ohio law,” said Gonidakis.
Kellie Copeland, Pro-Choice Ohio executive director, said abortion is still legal for now. But she also said the political forces in this state are working to change that.
Copeland said Gov. Mike DeWine along with fellow Republican legislators and state leaders are to blame for this "attack on our basic human rights."
“They have spent decades methodically passing legislation and litigating cases to dismantle Roe v. Wade and destroy protections for our bodily autonomy, access to abortion, contraception, and comprehensive sex education," Copeland said in a statement.
Copeland vowed to continue the fight to keep abortion legal and provide safe abortion options for women in Ohio.
Efforts to keep abortion legal
The Ohio legislature is dominated by Republicans who generally support abortion bans and restrictions. But there are some Democratic lawmakers who have tried to push abortion rights.
In May, they put forward a proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion rights. It doesn't actually codify Roe v. Wade but instead takes scientific developments since that time into consideration. Back in 1973, the age of viability was around 24 weeks into a pregnancy but science has shrunk that window since the Roe ruling. Sponsors of the constitutional amendment would need approval from three-fifths of the Ohio House and Senate to put that on the statewide ballot.
Since most Republicans have already signed on to sponsor or voiced support for bills that restrict or eliminate abortion rights, it's highly unlikely that effort will go anywhere in the legislature.
But if citizens decide they want to pass that proposed constitutional amendment to preserve abortion rights statewide, they could collect more than 440,000 valid petition signatures and put it on the ballot. There isn't a high-profile move afoot to do that yet, but that could change now that the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down this ruling.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.