Ohio’s Anti-Abortion Bill HB 200

by Mary Drummer

Mary Drummer is a student, Democratic campaign organizer, and reproductive justice advocate/organizer living in Northeast Ohio. You can find her on Twitter: @mary_drummer.

Republicans in the Ohio legislature are on a roll.

After turning the state’s biennium budget bill into an abortion restriction free-for all that includes defunding Planned Parenthood and non-PP affiliated family planning clinics and imposing unncessary, TRAP-like restrictions on abortion clinics in the state (one clinic in Toledo has already closed due to these proposed regulations and another one may close within a few months), you’d think the GOP-controlled General Assembly would be happy and leave well enough alone. You’d be wrong.

On Tuesday, June 11th, State Representative Ron Hood (R-Asheville) and 34 of his Republican colleagues introduced HB 200 which, quite frankly, is an amalgamation of the worst elements of every anti-choice bill ever introduced at the state level. If passed, the bill would:

1. Expand the current mandatory waiting period from 24 to 48 hours

Ohio is one of 35 states that require a patient to undergo “counseling” before an abortion can be performed and one of 26 that have mandatory waiting periods, thus requiring a patient to make two trips to an abortion provider. Out of Ohio’s 88 counties, 91% do not have an abortion provider; 55% of people gender-identified as women live in these counties. Due to work/life balances and travel issues, many individuals have to wait 1-2 weeks between appointments, often going to clinics on a Saturday. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, waiting 1-2 weeks can increase the cost of an abortion procedure by several hundred dollars, further burdening individuals from obtaining a safe, legal, medical procedure.

2. Would eliminate “medical necessity” as a reason to waive the waiting period and replace it with “medical emergency”, which has been redefined from presenting a “serious risk to the life or physical health” of the pregnant person to now mean “the death of the woman would result from the failure to immediately terminate”

3. Require an obstetric ultrasound that portrays the entire body of the embryo or the fetus, provides the patient with descriptions of “fetal pain” at each stage of development and the heartbeat, if any. The patient does have the right to refuse to see the ultrasound images and listen to the heartbeat.

Because it requires a detailed description of the embryo or fetus, many patients will be subjected to an invasive transvaginal ultrasound. The wand used in a transvaginal ultrasound is closer to the uterus, which provides a better view, and is why this procedure is most frequently used prior to the 8th week of pregnancy. According to the Ohio Department of Health’s annual report on induced abortions in Ohio, in 2011 (the most recent year with information), 57% of abortions occurred during the first 9 weeks of pregnancy, with 28% occurring during the 9-12th weeks.

Research conducted by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concludes that a fetus cannot feel pain before 24 weeks. Of the 24, 764 induced abortions performed in Ohio in 2011, only 525 were 20 weeks or later.

4. Require the physician to provide information to the patient regarding the “risks” of abortion, including “increased risk of breast cancer”.

The myth linking abortion to an increased risk of breast cancer has been repeatedly debunked by the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists</>, and even the state of Ohio. (Female) Breast Cancer in Ohio (2000-2004), a 2007 report published by the Ohio Cancer Incidence Surveillance System (which is run by the Ohio Department of Health), explicitly states that there is no scientific evidence that induced abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

5. Require a physician to provide a written statement showing their gross salary from the previous year, how much of that income came from providing abortions, and how much money the physician would lose if the patient decided to continue with their pregnancy.

The penalty for a physician who violates any of the requirements of the bill will be a 1st degree felony charge and a fine of up to $1 million. This bill does not include exceptions for fetal anomalies or for survivors of rape and incest.

I care about this issue for many reasons: I believe in bodily autonomy and I trust people to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. As a 20-something living in Ohio, I have been a patient and a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. I am also an abortion clinic escort in Northeast Ohio. As an escort, it’s my responsibility to walk patients past a crowd of screaming “pro-life” protestors shouting the same medical misinformation that’s included in HB 200. It’s bad enough to hear anti-abortion protestors spread propaganda and distort facts, but I expect better from the people elected to represent me in my state government.

The anti-abortion and anti-family planning measures being pursued in Ohio right now are dangerous and will have the most detrimental effect on those who are low-income and most marginalized. The bill has been referred to the Health and Aging Committee which is chaired by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon). Rep. Wachtmann garnered national attention when his extreme, anti-choice “Heartbeat Bill” passed the Ohio House in June 2011. There isn’t much time to speak out; the last House session on the calendar is Wednesday, June 26th. For more information on advocating in Ohio, check out NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio’s website.

[Editor’s note: more people than just cis women need and want access to abortion care.]

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