Not too long ago, even some anti-abortion advocates viewed the “heartbeat bill” as too extreme. They worried about unintended consequences in the courts, their cause set back as judges began to rule. Today, all that has changed, as evident at the Statehouse on Wednesday. Abortion opponents gathered to cheer passage of the legislation and, more, the prospect of enactment. Sure enough, a day later, Gov. Mike DeWine kept his pledge to sign the bill.

That is too bad. On the evening of his election in November, the governor stressed that he would be the leader of all Ohioans. That isn’t the spirit of this bill. It works to divide. His fellow Republicans in charge of the legislature already have enacted nearly two dozen restrictions on abortion rights, including a ban on the procedure at 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Why go further by barring abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, or around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant?

Because the legal landscape has shifted. Anti-abortion advocates see the arrival of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh at the Supreme Court as the opening to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision or narrow abortion rights to the point of a virtual prohibition. So passage and enactment are about provoking a legal fight, Ohio joining a handful of other states in seeking an eventual hearing before the high court.

To his credit, DeWine’s predecessor, John Kasich, a Republican and an opponent of abortion, twice vetoed versions of the “heartbeat bill.” He doubted the courts would give their approval. With that in mind, it is worth recalling where the Supreme Court has stood. It didn’t just find a right to abortion until viability, when a fetus can survive outside the womb, in one ruling 46 years ago. Court majorities have reaffirmed the right, notably in 1992 and 2016, declaring that restrictions must not create an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

It is hard to imagine a more “undue burden” than barring abortion at a point when many women do not know they are pregnant. Thus, for a court majority to permit the “heartbeat bill” would involve more than abandoning precedent. It would be a seismic shift, toward illegal and dangerous abortions.

Consider the additional extremes to which the legislation goes. It contains no exceptions for rape or incest. A physician performing an abortion after detection of a heartbeat would face a fifth-degree felony charge, with up to 12 months in prison. He or she also would face disciplinary action by the State Medical Board, including the prospect of a $20,000 fine and loss of license. There is an exception for preserving the health of the mother, as required by court precedent, but it has been limited significantly.

On Tuesday, during a committee hearing, state Rep. Beth Liston, a physician, noted that medicine lacks the capacity to support neonates from 12 weeks to 16 weeks in a pregnancy. The Dublin Democrat added: “Simply put, you need lungs and a brain to live, and there’s no technology in the world to change that.”

For many abortion opponents, that misses the point. They are determined to protect life from what they see as the start. As the governor often has explained, “the essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, and that certainly includes the unborn.” At the same time, a majority supports abortion rights, and most recognize the difficulty in deciding to end a pregnancy. What the divide reveals is a dilemma, the choice best left to each woman. That is what the court has protected, and the “heartbeat bill” abandons.