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Pro-choice and abortion rights activists protesting outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Energized by the Supreme Court's solid conservative majority, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion measures into law on Thursday, criminalizing the procedure after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — which can be as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy.

The big picture: The "fetal heartbeat" measure, approved by the GOP-controlled legislature on Wednesday, prohibits abortion at a point when many women aren't even aware they are pregnant. The passage comes as a growing number of Republican-led state legislatures are unleashing a fierce assault on abortion rights by adopting similar bans.

Details: Per the Ohio measure, which former-Gov. John Kasich vetoed twice in 2016 and 2018, physicians who perform abortions — either after a heartbeat is detected or fail to do an ultrasound to detect one — would face a fifth-degree felony.

  • The doctors could serve between 6 to 12 months behind bars, face a $2,500 court fine, and a $20,000 fine from the State Medical Board of Ohio.
  • The law makes no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

The state of play: "Fetal heartbeat" measures are popping up in Republican-controlled states across the country, despite facing numerous legal challenges along the way.

Why it matters: The nationwide push collides with Supreme Court rulings that allow abortions up to 24 weeks during pregnancy when the fetus is not viable — or when a woman's health or life is at risk. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives, emboldened by Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the nation's highest court last year, from sharpening their focus.

  • Conservatives and anti-abortion groups could hardly be more blatant about their intent. They want to land a successful lawsuit before the Supreme Court to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide.

The bottom line: These measures are further polarizing the already politically charged issue of abortion access, especially on a more local level.

  • Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said Wednesday in a statement: "[This] is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade. While other states embrace radical legislation to legalize abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy, Ohio has drawn a line and continues to advance protections for unborn babies."
  • Just moments after DeWine signed the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: "We'll see you in court."

Go deeper: Trump's anti-abortion push

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include that the Ohio governor signed the measure.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.