COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich signed one abortion-restricting bill Dec. 13 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 Dec. 13 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.
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.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.