Abortions bills move through lame duck

woman receiving medical care
Female health care worker explaining medical records to young patient in office. Maskot/Getty Images.

As the end of the 133rd General Assembly swiftly approaches, abortion bills are making their way through committees, and one has already been passed into law.

The Senate gave their final approval of Senate Bill 27 this week, which requires abortion providers to pay for the burial or cremation of fetal remains after surgical abortion.

The bill was panned by abortion clinics and pro-choice advocates as yet another thinly veiled attempt to close clinics and restrict access for Ohioans to a legal medical procedure. Supporters, including legislators in the House, say the abortion providers “deserve” to pay for the service.

After passage, the ACLU pushed the governor to veto the “unconstitutional” bill, echoing other opponents in saying the bill “serves no legitimate purpose.”

“This is calculated to drive up the cost of obtaining abortions and put additional strain on patients and clinics across Ohio,” said Freda Levenson, ACLU of Ohio’s legal director, in a statement.

The group said the governor should also veto the bill because the bill does not address medication abortions (those conducted with a prescription pill method rather than a surgical procedure), miscarriages, stillbirths or embryos disposed of by fertility clinics.

“The nonsensical and inconsistent application of this bill validates the fact that it was passed to burden patients and providers and increase the costs of abortion care,” Levenson wrote.

Gov. Mike DeWine has a history of supporting pro-life measures, and therefore is likely to sign the bill, but has not specifically commented on it.

The abortion issue isn’t done in the waning days of the lame duck session, with a bill on telemedicine abortions reappearing recently in the House Health Committee.

Senate Bill 260 bans the use of telemedicine for medication abortions, making violation of the proposed law a fourth-degree felony for the first offense.

State Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, brought the bill to the Senate in January, and it passed by March. The measure focuses on a two-pill regimen used in medication abortions, Mifepristone and Misoprostol.

“There is a time and place for telemedicine, but in such a critical, vulnerable time, this is not one of them,” Huffman told the committee.

The bill is supported by anti-abortion groups in the state, and Dr. Lindsay Rerko, a primary care physician in Columbus said the medication was too risky to be administered over telemedicine. She cited data that said the medication had resulted in 24 deaths over the last 18 years.

Abortion clinic officials have said in previous discussions about the bill that supporters are ignoring statutes already in Ohio law that require in-person clinic visits before the medication abortion can occur.

Ohio law also mandates a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure, and requires that the initial in-person visit include an ultrasound.

Democratic members of the House Health Committee said the bill is “the latest Republican attack on women’s health care access.”

“That my colleagues, many of whom have contributed to a culture of anti-science and anti-medicine throughout the pandemic, remain preoccupied with a woman’s pregnancy and what she and her personal physician discuss is shameful,” Committee ranking member state Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, in a statement after the committee meeting.

The House has only two “if needed” sessions currently scheduled before the end of the year, which marks the end of the current General Assembly.

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