On July 11, 2019, Ohio’s “heartbeat” bill became law. Under this piece of legislation, it is illegal for a doctor or staff to perform an abortion 6 weeks into pregnancy or when a fetal heartbeat is detected. Violators could face criminal penalties, as well as administrative sanctions such as professional license revocation.
Sections of the new law make exceptions in cases where the woman’s life is in danger; however, it does not address circumstances of pregnancy that occurred as a result of rape or incest.
This is one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country and prohibits performing the procedure even before a woman may know she is pregnant. However, the legislation creates challenges, specifically about a woman’s right to get an abortion before the fetus has the potential to survive outside the womb after birth. The question arises whether a fetus is viable once a heartbeat is detected, which can lead to appeals in criminal court.
If a physician performs an abortion after 6 weeks or when a heartbeat is detected, they could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for a first offense. The second and subsequent offenses are charged as fifth- or fourth-degree felonies. If a doctor carries out the procedure on a minor, without first having received the parent’s permission, they could face a first-degree misdemeanor charge for the first offense and fourth-degree felony charges for subsequent offenses. The physician and/or staff could also be charged with a first-degree felony of “abortion manslaughter” for performing an abortion after the legal time period.
Additionally, under the new law, if a doctor carries out the procedure in violation of the new statute, they could face charges of trafficking abortion-inducing drugs. This offense is a third-degree felony.
If a doctor continually performs these procedures, the state could prosecute the clinic under RICO laws, concerning engaging in a pattern of criminal activity. A conviction could result in the practice being closed and losing property.
Prosecutors May Aggressively Pursue Cases
Ohio courts have traditionally been conservative in their rulings, and it is likely they will stringently adhere to the revisions of the new law, arguing that a fetus is viable after 6 weeks or when a heartbeat is detected. Holding steadfastly to the amended legal definitions, prosecutors might fiercely pursue these types of cases to land a conviction of doctors, staff, clinics, and/or patients. If found guilty, defendants could face jail time of up to 180 days or prison terms of up to 10 years.
Contact Eyer Stone, LTD for the Legal Representation You Need
Our attorney believes that everyone has the right to effective legal counsel. If you are charged for a violation related to the heartbeat bill, we will work tirelessly to defend your freedoms. We will take the time to listen to you and provide honest and open communication to help you understand the charges, possible consequences, and your legal options.