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A federal judge blocks Ohio's 'heartbeat bill' abortion ban

A federal judge temporarily blocked the law that would have banned abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge has temporarily blocked Ohio's 'heartbeat' ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.  

The so-called "heartbeat bill" is meant to challenge Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision from 1973. 

Judge Michael Barrett of the U.S. District Court of Southern Ohio temporarily blocked the law that would have banned abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant.

RELATED: Toledo City Council passes resolution against the heartbeat bill

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RELATED: Dozens protest in Downtown Toledo to 'Stop the Ban'

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood brought this lawsuit on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland and other abortion clinics in the state.  

Barrett said Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics represented by the American Civil Liberties Union that sued to stop the law "are certain to succeed on the merits of their claim that (the bill) is unconstitutional on its face."

Barrett joined the court in 2006 after being nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Senate Bill 23 was signed by Governor DeWine on April 11 and was scheduled to take effect this month.

 Abortion bans similar to this one have passed in eight other states. Six states passed the law this year, and Alabama went one step further by outlawing all abortions.  

On June 26, Toledo City Council approved a resolution against the heartbeat bill at their meeting. A city council resolution has the power of sending a strong message, but does very little in overruling the state law.   

The Ohio ACLU hailed the ruling. 

“Today the Court has upheld the clear law: women in Ohio (and across the nation) have the constitutional right to make this deeply personal decision about their own bodies without interference from the State. This would ban nearly all abortions by preventing people from obtaining care at about 6 weeks - a time when many women do not even realize they may be pregnant. Abortion bans like this one have been blocked across the country by numerous courts,” said Freda Levenson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio.

Ohio Right to Life, the state's biggest anti-abortion group, said it will continue to advocate for the issue. 

“While it is certainly disappointing that Judge Barrett would issue a temporary restraining order, it is certainly not surprising,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “The Heartbeat Bill has the potential to be the vehicle that overturns Roe v. Wade. We know that this temporary restraining order is just a step in the process to finally seeing Roe reconsidered.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper spoke out against what he termed the GOP's wasteful attempts to affect reproductive health care. 

“Year after year Ohio Republicans have continued to push plainly unconstitutional legislation, and now a federal judge -- a Republican appointee -- has blocked their latest attempt to ban abortion and punish doctors in the state," Pepper said. "The Ohio GOP is wasting taxpayer resources, and they are putting Ohioans’ lives in danger with their attacks on reproductive health care.”  

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