The Columbus Dispatch
GOP abortion bill could close clinics
Ohio access to procedure is likely to be threatened
Access to surgical abortions in Southwest Ohio could soon be threatened following a vote by the Ohio House
Republicans voted 59 to 33 for Senate Bill 157. The bill originally created new felony charges around failed abortions where infants are born alive.
But it got an amendment back in October that banned certain doctors from contracting with abortion clinics.
Supporters said the change made a good bill better, but opponents say it could force Planned Parenthood of
Southwest Ohio and Women’s Med of Dayton to close.
“The law that SB 157 purports to create already exists in our state,” Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio’s Lauren Blauvelt-copelin said in a statement. “Lawmakers are using it as a Trojan horse to hide the true, insidious intent of the bill ... shutting down health centers and fully eliminating abortion access in Southwest Ohio.”
Abortion in Ohio: How we got here
Abortions are legal in Ohio until 20 weeks gestation, but the rules for how they are performed change frequently.
Conservatives looking to outlaw the practice have successfully passed 30 bills since 2011, including banning abortions following a Down syndrome
diagnosis, mandating ultrasounds and prohibiting the use of telemedicine.
This latest bill centers around infants who might be “born alive.” Ohio already has a charge called abortion manslaughter, but SB 157 would expand it to include protecting the health as well as the life of the infant.
“The bill acknowledges the simple fact that regardless of the circumstances surrounding his or her birth, every child deserves our compassion are care,” Sen. Terry Johnson, a Mcdermott Republican and physician, said in October when the bill passed the Senate.
The proposed law would also require health care providers to report these incidents to the Ohio Department of Health or face third-degree felony charges.
“It equates not completing paperwork with the same degree of felony as rape,” Rep. Beth Liston, D-dublin, said.
Liston, who is a medical doctor, offered an amendment to eliminate this charge but Republicans rejected it.
Another concern raised by Liston and other doctors was about how SB 157 might impact women who miscarry a baby they wanted. The worry is that miscarried babies may be whisked off by doctors for medical interventions, rather than left in the arms of the grieving mothers.
Dr. Mae-lan Winchester, who specializes in fetal medicine, told a House committee earlier this month that many of her patients don’t want medical interventions, choosing instead to hold their babies for as long as possible.
“You cannot imagine the pain my patients feel when making these heartbreaking decisions,” Winchester said. “This law could threaten my patients’ abilities to choose the care they feel is right for their family.”
SB 157 would also make it harder for the two clinics in Southwest Ohio to stay open.
Ohio requires surgical abortion clinics to have agreements with local hospitals that would treat their patients in emergencies. Without such agreements, they need something called a variance. It’s an exception to state law that lets the clinic contract with area physicians who hold admitting privileges.
If SB 157 becomes law, it would ban physicians who teach medical students or those affiliated with public hospitals from contracting with abortion clinics. That would force clinics in Cincinnati and Dayton to find new doctors.
House Republicans didn’t comment on this part of the bill when it came up for a vote, but Sen. Niraj Antani, R-miamisburg, said changing the variance requirements has been a long-time goal.
Other GOP bills on abortion at Statehouse
SB 157 isn’t the only abortion bill working its way through Ohio’s legislature. House Bill 480 would make abortions at any stage of pregnancy illegal and allow almost anyone to file a civil lawsuit against a provider for up to $10,000. And Senate Bill 123 would ban abortion across Ohio if Roe v. Wade was overturned.
SB 157 will go back to the Senate for one more vote before heading to Gov. Mike Dewine’s desk.
Unlike his Republican predecessor, Dewine has stood in lock step with his party on abortion issues. He signed a bill into law that would ban almost all abortions once a fetal heartbeat was detected. A federal judge stopped the “heartbeat law” from going into effect in July 2019.
Anna Staver is a reporter with the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. It serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.