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Proposed Bill Calls for Strict Abortion Ban, Faces Challenges in State Legislature

a photo of protestors
Protestors demonstrate about abortion legislation at the Ohio Statehouse in May 2019.

A new bill that would ban abortion in Ohio has been introduced by Statehouse Republicans.  A similar bill calling for a total ban was introduced last year but didn’t pass. So why is this bill being introduced now?

The president of the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, Margie Christie, says this abortion bill has one goal. “We’re tired of it being regulated. We want it ended.”

This new bill has a third of the House GOP caucus as co-sponsors. At 723 pages, it’s more than twice as long as a total ban introduced last year. It creates new criminal offenses of abortion murder and aggravated abortion murder, which could carry the death penalty. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. And if a woman’s life is in danger, doctors would likely have to wait much longer to do the procedure.

The bill also includes language that State Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) proposed about moving an ectopic pregnancy into a woman’s uterus. Medical experts say that’s not possible, but the bill would require that if it ever is. Pro-choice advocates say this ban isn’t based in fact and is dangerous.

“It really just shows how extreme abortion opponents are in this state,” said Jaime Miracle with NARAL ProChoice Ohio. She says it could even make criminals out of women who use common forms of contraception that some consider abortifacients. “All of the birth control pills, injections, some IUD’s – all of them can have a mechanism of stopping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus; still birth control but would be outlawed by this bill.”

Miracle says this bill endangers the lives of women and could lead to some being prosecuted for miscarriages. “Because this bill creates personhood at the moment an egg is fertilized, anything that happens beyond that point can be criminalized as murder up through aggravated murder which carries a death penalty charge in this state.  So, what happens when an individual miscarries and ends up in the emergency room?  Is a doctor going to have to investigate? Did they do something to cause that miscarriage?”

But Christie with the Right to Life Action Coalition says the bill is not meant to go after women who have miscarriages. “If your intent was to kill the child, then you should be held criminally responsible. If your intent was something had gone wrong and there’s an issue with the mother and unfortunately something had to happen, that’s a whole different intent. If your intent is to kill that child then we believe you should be prosecuted and have consequences for that.”

Christie’s group is not affiliated with Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group. Its President, Mike Gonidakis, is reluctant to jump on board with this bill. When the total ban was proposed last year, Gonidakis said the group couldn’t support it because its legal integrity concerned him. “If you’re not careful in crafting good pro-life legislation, you are ultimately going to lose and when you lose in the federal court system, it has ramifications.”

Ohio Right to Life did not embrace the six-week abortion ban known as the Heartbeat Bill until after it was clear it was could pass and would be signed by Gov. Mike DeWine. It's never taken effect - a federal court put that ban on hold in July. Christie says the group can get this bill passed without Ohio Right to Life’s support.

“We would hope they wouldn’t come out against it. We would hope that if they weren’t in support or had a reason not to support it, they would just keep to themselves. I mean this should not be a divisive issue for our pro-life community.

For his part, DeWine won’t say whether he’d sign this total ban.

“I think we should stay focused on what the legislature has passed. The Heartbeat Bill, if that bill is going to be upheld, it will only be upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court. We knew that when it was passed. We knew that when I signed it. We should let that play out and see what the U.S. Supreme Court does in that case or a similar case.”

DeWine says no recent restrictions on abortion that have passed can be implemented unless the nation’s high court modifies or scraps the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.  

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment. Jo started her career in Louisville, Kentucky in the mid 80’s when she helped produce a televised presidential debate for ABC News, worked for a creative services company and served as a general assignment report for a commercial radio station. In 1989, she returned back to her native Ohio to work at the WOSU Stations in Columbus where she began a long resume in public radio.