© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Abortion exceptions under Ohio's 'heartbeat bill' are up to interpretation

 Gavel and computer with file
Armmy Picca
Gavel and computer with file

The story about the ten-year-old rape survivor who traveled to Indiana for an abortion days after Ohio’s new abortion ban went into effect is raising questions about whether she needed to travel to get that procedure. The new Ohio law bans abortions when fetal heart activity can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. But questions about whether a narrow exception in the new law could be applied in the girl’s case are not easy to answer.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost said the ban has exceptions to say abortions can be done to save life or prevent long term impairment of a bodily function. And in the case of the ten-year-old girl, he says she would have likely qualified.

"Without knowing anything about the medical file, or her condition or her development and without the doctor's knowledge, you can't really make a definitive statement about it. However, it's very likely that a ten-year-old in this situation would have been able to been treated here in Ohio," Yost said.

State Representative Jeff Crossman (D-Parma), who is running against Yost for attorney general this fall, disagrees.

"It's patently false and the attorney general knows it and he's lying,"

Crossman noted some lawmakers made impassioned speeches about their own experiences of sexual assaults, rape or abortion in an effort to get an exception for rape or incest. He also noted majority Republicans struck down an amendment that would have allowed those exceptions when the current law was being passed in the Ohio House.

Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Protesters hold a banner inside the Ohio House chamber after lawmakers approve SB23. April 2019.

"The fact that this has been pointed out to him and he continues to double-down to say that she deserved and would have received the care in Ohio is outrageous. It's outrageous. He's lying. And no doctor, not one doctor in Ohio would risk losing their license and get a felony conviction to give a ten-year-old an abortion in Ohio based on the way the law is written," Crossman said.

Crossman asked the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the non-partisan legal agency that helped lawmakers write the bill that eventually become law, whether "minor victims of sexual assault are able to receive abortions within Ohio after six weeks gestation." The answer was, "No, Ohio’s abortion prohibition applies regardless of the circumstances of conception or the age of the mother."

 Letter from Legislative Service Commission to Rep. Jeff Crossman's aide
Submitted by Rep. Jeff Crossman
Jeff Crossman, representative, Ohio House
Letter from Legislative Service Commission to Rep. Jeff Crossman's aide

Ohio State University law professor Marc Spindelman said he cannot comment on the case involving the ten-year-old rape victim. But he said, in general, interpretations of exceptions to a law like this can vary from person to person.

“Where there is an exception to a general rule prohibiting abortion, you can read it at least narrowly or more broadly,” Spindelman said.

Spindelman said the way people often interpret those exceptions can be based on their own personal values.

"It's not just pro-life values that are on the line. There are also, you know, values of autonomy, of equality, of freedom from state control, of the independent value of the life and health of pregnant women and other pregnant people who are better implicated in the sort of broad matrix," Spindelman said.

Spindelman said in the case of abortion, the conversation is often about competing values.

"Part of what we are now beginning to engage in in different ways are public conversations about the competing values that are at stake and so continually getting them on the board just feels quite important, independent of what one makes about how to balance or accommodate them," Spindelman said.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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.