CINCINNATI, Ohio — A federal judge July 3 granted a preliminary injunction blocking an Ohio ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Judge Michael Barrett of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio said in 12-page order the court conclude that the law, signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in April, “places an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s right to choose a pre-viability abortion, and … plaintiffs are certain to succeed on the merits of their claim.”

The American Civil Liberties of Ohio and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the ban on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland and other Ohio abortion providers. It was to have taken effect July 11 but is now on hold while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, a time-frame in which many women are unaware they are pregnant.

The Ohio House April 10 voted 56-40 in favor of the bill. Agreeing with the House’s changes in the legislation, the Senate adopted it a short time later, 18-13, sending it DeWine for his signature. Both votes occurred mostly along party lines with Republicans lined up in favor of it and Democrats opposed.

Voting on the measure followed an impassioned debate in the Ohio House in which proponents and opponents pleaded with legislators to adopt their view as protesters on both sides chanted outside the House chamber.

Under the law, doctors and others who perform an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected or who fail to do an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion face being charged with a fifth-degree felony punishable by six to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

When he signed the bill, DeWine stated: “The function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, those who do not have a voice. Government’s role should be to protect life from the beginning to the end, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, such as the elderly, the unborn, those who are sick, those who have mental illness or have an addiction.”

DeWine, who is Catholic, added: “The signing of this bill is consistent with that respect for life and to ability to sign protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

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