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Ohio lawmakers pass ‘heartbeat’ abortion legislation

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 a 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 US Supreme Court legalised 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.

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