Knowing they could count on Donald Trump to nominate a staunchly pro-life judge to the Supreme Court, Republicans in the Ohio legislature sensed an opportunity in the air. They passed what has been termed the “Heartbeat Bill” – one of the strongest anti-abortion laws in the country. If signed by Gov. John Kasich, the bill would have outlawed abortions in any case where the baby’s heartbeat can be detected. Critics say that it would have effectively made abortion illegal in the state of Ohio.
Be that as it may, it won’t be signed. Gov. Kasich opted to veto the bill on Tuesday while simultaneously signing into law a weaker bill banning abortions after the 20-week mark. In explaining his decision, Kasich said he wanted to save the taxpayers a lengthy and losing court battle.
“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,” Kasich said. “Therefore, this veto is in the public interest.”
Even so, the bill Kasich did sign could also be challenged in the courts. Two states have blocked abortion bills like the one Kasich signed, and critics say that “pain-capable” clauses are not scientific. 15 other states, however, have similar laws on the books, so there’s a good chance Ohio’s will stand for the foreseeable future.
Kasich’s pragmatism won’t do much to console supporters of the bill; a showdown in the Supreme Court was exactly what they wanted. Ohio pro-life Republicans see Trump’s Court as an opportunity to challenge Roe v. Wade that has not been available in quite some time. With Trump signaling that the abortion issue will be his highest priority in selecting a judge, it’s possible that he could pick someone even to the right of Scalia on the issue. That opens the door, if slightly, to a full or complete overturn of the landmark abortion ruling.
If that challenge is coming, however, it will be from somewhere other than Ohio.