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Federal judge extends stay on Ohio heartbeat abortion ban

An in-depth look at the Heartbeat Bill
Posted at 10:04 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 22:04:49-05

COLUMBUS — A federal judge extended a temporary stay on Ohio’s 2019 “heartbeat” abortion ban on Wednesday, saying he will delay a decision on whether to permanently block the law until two intertwined abortion cases are decided.

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett’s order means that enforcement of the law signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in April 2019 will remain on hold. Lawyers for Ohio abortion providers have asked Barrett to block the law permanently.

The measure would prohibit abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. That fact has prompted opponents to argue that it effectively banned the procedure. The measure was twice vetoed by then-Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, before DeWine signed it.

Barrett wrote that he needs to see what happens in a case against a similar Tennessee law and in another case pending against an Ohio law that banned abortions in cases in which a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis is a factor in choosing the procedure.

In issuing his temporary injunction, Barrett concluded that the lawsuit against the Ohio heartbeat law would certainly succeed because the ban places an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb.