I’ve been focusing on national (and international) politics because the news cycle has been so crazy, but today we’re going to look at what a few of the states have been up to.
Ohio has been making some moves to restrict abortion further. On December 6, the Ohio Senate and House approved a ban on abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which generally occurs around six weeks. The language was added to an unrelated bill concerning child welfare, and the language does not provide exceptions for rape or incest. Two days later, the Ohio Senate and House approved a bill which bans abortions at or after 20 weeks. Again, that bill has no exceptions for rape or incest.
On December 13, Governor John Kasich vetoed the 6-week ban but signed into law the 20 week ban. The ban goes into effect in 90 days, barring any court fight’s over the law’s constitutionality.
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up to the point of “viability,” which is defined as when a fetus is capable of prolonged life outside the mother’s womb. Although some have lauded Governor Kasich’s veto of the six-week ban, almost all familiar with pro-choice precedent understand that a six-week ban would directly violate Roe v. Wade. Viability is generally understood as occurring during the third trimester – some point between the 24th and 28th week of the pregnancy. A 20-week ban on abortion has been ruled unconstitutional at the state and federal levels in Arizona and Idaho because fetuses are not viable at 20 weeks. There are still dozens of other states that have similar legislation that has not yet been challenged.
Ohio knows this. Governor Kasich knows this. The pro-life group Ohio Right to Life has stated that it hopes the 20-week ban can be used to reopen Roe v. Wade, and that “[t]he time has come for this archaic line which is viability and Roe to end. As science continues to develop and as public opinion continues to change we’re going to continue to chip away at Roe.”
They are hoping that the make up of the Supreme Court will change before the case gets challenged, and that if it is challenged, the Supreme Court will finally overrule Roe v. Wade, or, at a minimum, find that viability is no longer the appropriate standard, opening states up to additional restrictions to abortions.
North Carolina has had some issues since the election. Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCrory ran for re-election in a very tight race against Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee. Even though Cooper won by almost 5,000 votes, McCrory refused to concede until almost a month after the election.
It does not appear that the North Carolina Republicans are going down without a fight. After convening a special session of the legislature to address hurricane relief, Republicans called for a second special session, in which they have introduced bills to limit incoming Governor Cooper’s power. For example, they have moved to make Cabinet appointees subject to state senate approval, remove the governor’s power to appoint trustees to the University of North Carolina system and the state board of education, and reduce the number of employees the governor could hire by 1,200. Additionally, Republicans have introduced a bill that would overhaul the state’s election boards, which many view as the latest attempt to restrict voting in the state.
The special session is ongoing, and so far we are still waiting to hear how the voting goes. Governor-elect Cooper currently serves as the Attorney General of North Carolina, and has threatened to sue the state of North Carolina if the legislature passes anything unconstitutional. I’ll post updates as they arise.