Ohio pushes under-the-radar abortion restriction based on false claims


If the bill passes, it will be yet another restriction in a state that already has multiple anti-abortion restrictions.

States are continuing to introduce abortion bills at a breakneck pace, and Ohio is no exception. The state is currently considering a measure that would be even more restrictive than the one recently enacted in Texas, while another measure that would address so-called "botched abortions" is also making its way through the Legislature. 

Ohio's proposed abortion ban is getting a lot of attention. It's even more drastic than the law that went into effect in Texas earlier this year: While the Texas law bans abortions at six weeks' gestation, Ohio's bill would completely ban abortion by defining an "unborn child" as "an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth."

Ohio's bill contains a provision also found in the Texas law, whereby private citizens can sue anyone who "aids and abets" someone who obtains an abortion. The Ohio bill would also allow private citizens to sue anyone who has "taken action or made statements that demonstrate to a reasonable person that the person intends to" assist someone in obtaining an abortion. 

That's not all that is happening in Ohio right now, however. S.B. 157, which has already passed the Senate and is now before the House, would mandate the creation of reports "listing the total number of women on whom an abortion was performed or attempted ... and in which a child was born alive after that event." The bill would also prohibit doctors from "purposely tak[ing] the life of a child born by attempted abortion who is alive when removed from the uterus." 

Both of these are solutions to a nonexistent problem — that of babies supposedly being "born alive" during an attempted abortion. Republican legislators have been particularly fond of proposing laws that would criminally penalize doctors who "murder" babies born in such circumstances. 

Numerous laws already exist to prohibit doctors from murdering patients in their care. As attorney Neil Siegel told PolitiFact in 2020, when such a law was proposed in North Carolina, "There is no lack of statutory or constitutional law that would protect babies through a live birth or a failed abortion."

The sponsor of Ohio's bill says it is necessary because "if an abortionist has 10 babies born alive in a year," a patient would want to know this and choose another abortion provider. But there is no evidence that this has happened in Ohio or any other state. 

Ohio already tracks this data. The state's 2020 "induced abortion" report has information about "failed abortions" but notes that incomplete abortions had been a post-abortion complication only in abortions before 12 weeks' gestation. In all of 2020, there were no "failed abortions" past 13 weeks of gestation, well before fetal viability. 

Additionally, Ohio already requires extensive documentation regarding abortions, including who performed the abortion, the facility where it was performed, the date it was performed, the number of weeks of gestation, and any complications, including death. 

"Born alive" bills have been introduced in at least 13 states in 2021 so far, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health laws. If Ohio's bill passes, it will be yet another restriction in a state that already has multiple anti-abortion restrictions, including mandatory counseling, a waiting period, parental consent requirements, and a 20-week ban.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.