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Kasich Vetoes Ohio ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban, Signs 20-Week Legislation

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Republican Governor John Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law on Tuesday but vetoed stricter legislation that would have forbidden the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception.

Kasich, an abortion opponent, said in a statement that the proposed six-week legislation would be contrary to U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion, opening the state to potentially costly legal battles, and the veto was “in the public interest.”

“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 statement on the 20-week law, which lawmakers approved last week.

Neither of the measures made exceptions for rape or incest, although both allow for abortions that would save the mother’s life.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago, but states were allowed to permit restrictions once a fetus was viable. Some states, particularly those governed by Republicans such as Ohio, have sought to restrict abortion.

More than 10 states have put 20-week abortion bans in place, but federal courts in Arizona and Idaho have ruled them unconstitutional.

Under current law, Ohio prohibits abortion once a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, which is from 24 to 26 weeks of gestation.

Lower courts have struck down stricter “heartbeat” laws, like the one Kasich vetoed on Tuesday, in North Dakota and Arkansas. The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on those rulings in January.

Kasich’s decisions quickly drew criticism from both anti-abortion and abortion rights organizations.

“John Kasich is treating women’s health care like a game,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement after the signing.

“He thinks that by vetoing one abortion ban Ohioans will not notice that he has signed another. The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy.”

Meanwhile, anti-abortion group Faith2Action, called Kasich’s veto of the six-week ban a “betrayal of life,” and urged supporters to call lawmakers to try to persuade them to override Kasich’s veto.

At least three-fifths of the members of both the Republican-led state House of Representatives and the state Senate would have to vote in favor of overriding the governor’s veto in order to overturn it.

(Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

IMAGE: Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Ohio Lawmakers Pass ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception, clearing the way for one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States if it becomes law.

The Republican-led state House of Representatives and Senate passed the so-called “heartbeat” measure late on Tuesday, sending it to be signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich.

Kasich, an abortion opponent, has in the past questioned whether such legislation would be constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago, but states were allowed to permit restrictions once a fetus was viable. Some states, particularly those governed by Republicans such as Ohio, have sought to chip away at a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.

Lower courts have struck down similar “heartbeat” laws in North Dakota and Arkansas and the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on those rulings in January.

But now, with Republican President-elect Donald Trump having the opportunity to fill at least one Supreme Court vacancy, conservatives in Ohio hope that the legislation can withstand a challenge in court.

“A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Senate President Keith Faber told the Columbus Dispatch.

“It has a better chance than it did before,” Faber said of the bill’s chances of surviving a constitutional challenge, according to the Dispatch.

The heartbeat legislation has been approved twice before by the state’s lower house only to fail in the Senate.

The abortion legislation was part of a wider bill on reporting child abuse. It does not make exceptions for rape and incest, though it does allow for abortions that would save the mother’s life, according to text of the legislation.

Some women’s rights groups were swift to condemn the approval of the bill. The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights and tracks abortion legislation, said it would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws if enacted.

“Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable,” abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Richard Lough)

Cleveland To Process Thousands Of Arrests At The RNC — And Activists Are Nervous

Police in Cleveland say they aim to avoid mass arrests at the protests planned for next week’s Republican National Convention, but preparations by the city’s courts to process up to 1,000 people a day have some civil rights activists worried.

Thousands of people from across the country are expected in the city to protest the expected presidential nomination of New York businessman Donald Trump, who has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and restrict immigration from countries with large Muslim populations if elected.

Supporters and opponents of Trump have clashed at several of his campaign events.

Police have vowed to honor protesters’ rights of free expression, which are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and avoid mass arrests.

“We don’t want anybody to trample on anybody else’s rights,” Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams told a news conference on Tuesday.

But memories of recent heavier-handed approaches are fresh in the heavily Democratic, majority black Ohio city of 388,000 people.

“I don’t want to be a naysayer here and rule out the possibility that everything is going to be hunky-dory … but knowing how the Cleveland Police Department has handled situations in the past, I just don’t have confidence that it’s going to work,” said Terry Gilbert, an attorney who has handled criminal and civil rights cases in the city for more than four decades.

“Until I see the actual situation next week, I’m going to be worried,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert pointed to the May 2015 arrests of 71 people following the acquittal of a police officer who fired 137 shots following a high-speed 2012 car chase, killing a black man and woman.

The arrested protesters were held for more than 36 hours over the Memorial Day weekend, and four alleged in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that police intentionally kept them in custody longer to prevent the protest from reforming.

‘WE ARE READY’

Cleveland paid $250,000 to secure 200 extra rooms in the Cuyahoga County jail, according to the Republican National Committee budget.

Cleveland Municipal Court officials said they would be ready to process a large volume of people quickly, with staff scheduled to work in two 10-hour shifts keeping the court operating from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day.

“We are ready,” said Ed Ferenc, a spokesman for the court. “We’ll have staff here till 1 a.m. If we have to do a docket at 10:30 at night, we’ll do it.”

The United States has seen hundreds of protests over the past two years following a series of high-profile police killings of black men. The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful, although they have been punctuated with bursts of rioting, arson and looting.

The ACLU plans to be out in force to ensure that people are not arrested for legal protests, said Christine Link, the group’s executive director in Ohio.

“Let’s not equate a lot of protesters with violence,” Link said. She noted the group would be keeping careful watch on the whereabouts of anyone arrested to ensure they are charged and released quickly.

At the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, hundreds of protesters were swept up and pushed into pens on the Hudson River.

With temperatures expected to reach 90 degrees F (32 C) most days, the health of detainees will be a concern, she said.

“What we’re worried about is that they’re not saying where they are booking people, they are being vague about it and that’s not good,” Link said. “That’s an attempt to hide the cheese.”

 

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Photo: A Cleveland mounted police officer talks to his horse during a demonstration of police capabilities near the site of the Republican National Convention July 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking