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Judge blocks Ohio "fetal heartbeat" abortion law

Judge blocks Ohio "fetal heartbeat" law

A federal judge temporarily blocked an Ohio law Wednesday that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, allowing clinics to continue to provide the procedure as a legal faceoff continues. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett halts enforcement of the so-called heartbeat bill law that opponents argued would effectively ban the procedure.

That's because a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they're pregnant.

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.

"Today, the court has upheld the clear law: women in Ohio ... have the constitutional right to make this deeply personal decision about their own bodies without interference from the state," Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said in a statement, Reuters news agency reported.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed the Ohio law in April, after predecessor John Kasich, a fellow Republican, twice vetoed it. The law was slated to take effect July 11 and violators could have faced up to a year in prison.

"Governor DeWine has long believed that this issue would be decided by the United States Supreme Court," spokesman Dan Tierney said in an email, Reuters added.

Ohio is among a dozen states that have considered similar legislation this year, as abortion opponents have pursued a national anti-abortion strategy to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Ohio Right to Life, the state's oldest and largest anti-abortion group, called the judge's decision disappointing but not surprising.

"The heartbeat bill has the potential to be the vehicle that overturns Roe v. Wade," Mike Gonidakis, the group's president, said in a statement. "We know that this temporary restraining order is just a step in the process to finally seeing Roe reconsidered."