Abortion rights activists protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Jane Norman, States Newsroom.
Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ohio legislature is set up to move forward with abortion bans in the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday morning that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
Legislative leaders said they were prepared to wait until the decision was released before moving forward with legislation to eliminate abortion services. As of Friday night, abortion is legal in Ohio up to six weeks into a pregnancy.
“The most important thing that Ohioans need to know today is that abortion is still legal in Ohio,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio. “There are nine clinics across the state and several in neighboring states that can safely and legally provide abortion care for patients. Today’s ruling is devastating, but it is not the end.”
Gov. Mike DeWine agreed that it would be “prudent” to wait until the Dobbs decision was made, and implement the previously-passed six-week abortion ban before moving on to new legislation.
“While noting those conditions, the Governor has expressed support for additional legislation depending on the details of the Dobbs decision,” a spokesperson for DeWine told the OCJ.
The Ohio Policy Evaluation Network, a group of researchers working with The Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati and Case Western Reserve University, said in a fact-sheet that it expects Ohio to ask for immediate implementation of the six-week abortion ban enacted in 2019.
The ban does not include exceptions for rape or incest, and only allows doctors to present an “affirmative defense,” legal arguments that could only come into play after a doctor has been charged with an offense, if the life of the pregnant person was at risk at the time of the abortion. The defense only works if the abortion happened in a hospital, and does not allow for risks that involve mental health.
Columbus-area OB/GYN Dr. Anita Somani said a ban at six weeks could eliminate the chance of an abortion before a pregnant person is aware of the pregnancy.
“If you don’t know you’re six-weeks pregnant, and you find out at eight or 10 weeks, then you have to look at going to a neighboring state,” Somani said. “At that point, you have to have money and time, as a patient, when you may have other children or just can’t afford it.”
The most recent abortion trigger ban, House Bill 598, was introduced by state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, would make abortion a fourth-degree felony, and promotion of abortion a misdemeanor offense.
The charges are targeted at the medical professionals providing the abortions, and provides no exemptions for cases of incest or rape. “Affirmative defenses” would be allowed in cases where the pregnancy presented a serious risk to the pregnant person.
Civil lawsuits could also be filed against physicians who perform abortions under the bill, and medical licenses could be at risk.
Senate President Matt Huffman celebrated the decision as “a long overdue turning point in our nation’s history.”
“I look forward to reviewing the specific details in the opinion, so that as we move forward, any legislation we pass in the Ohio Senate follows the guidance of the court, protecting life, and upholding the Constitution,” Huffman said.
House Speaker Bob Cupp said in a Friday statement that the “process of reviewing the decision is underway, including what steps should be taken at the state level and the timeline for doing so.”
“We will be working closely with Governor DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost and our colleagues in the Ohio Senate on this matter,” Cupp’s statement read.
DeWine has been consistently pro-life in his support of legislation and funding choices, including an executive order that allocated $3 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars to organizations who assisted pregnant Ohioans without promoting abortion as an option.
Attorney General Dave Yost said the decision “returns abortion policy to the place it has always belonged: to the elected policy branches of government.”
“Roe was poorly reasoned, a doctrine of shifting sands that invited perpetual litigation,” Yost said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the impacts of abortion bans in the state could create significant health care barriers and increased transportation costs to access care, according to researchers. These impacts could disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color.
Iris Harvey, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said the Supreme Court decision will give politicians power over Ohio bodies, including how they receive care.
“This dangerous and chilling decision can have devastating consequences in Ohio, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant,” Harvey said in a statement.
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