Ohio Senate GOP to clarify women’s health exemptions on six-week abortion ban

By: - November 18, 2022 4:55 am

The Oho Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with article with which it originally appears.)

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

Ohio Senate Republicans are working to clarify language on the six-week abortion ban following feedback from medical professionals, Senate President Matt Huffman told reporters on Wednesday.

Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman. Official photo.

They are working to “tighten up” definitions regarding the health and life of the mother, the Lima Republican said. The six-week ban, dubbed the heartbeat bill, prohibits most abortions after six weeks.

“We think we can make the heartbeat bill better by getting better definitions, things I think that weren’t really contemplated when it was passed a few years ago,” Huffman said.

Right now, the law is unenforceable due to a Hamilton County judge blocking it indefinitely as the lawsuit against it continues.

The six-week bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), does not have an exception for rape or incest. It also only applies only to intrauterine pregnancies. It only has two exceptions.

The ban allows for physicians to perform an abortion if the procedure is to prevent someone’s death or bodily impairment, which is defined as any “medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and reversible impairment of a major bodily function.” This includes pre-eclampsia, “inevitable” abortion and premature rupture of the membranes. It could also be diabetes or multiple sclerosis, but it can’t be anything related to mental health.

To be able to perform the life-saving measure, a physician has to write that the procedure is necessary for the above reasons and must include the medical condition and the medical rationale for it. Also, the written documentation must be included in the pregnant person’s medical records, and the doctor must have a copy of it for at least seven years.

The other exception is if there is no heartbeat.

To learn more about the six-week abortion ban, click or tap here.

Hearings will be held the week after Thanksgiving regarding the medical exception issue, Huffman said. This could be in the form of an additional bill to amend the 2019 law.

In an OCJ/WEWS interview with Gov. Mike DeWine, he was asked if the national backlash following the story of a child rape victim in Ohio needing to leave the state to get an abortion changed his perspective about exemptions.

“What I have said is that, you know, I’m pro-life… I know there’s been some criticism about the current law,” the governor said. “So, I think we need to look at that.”

As far as what members of the legislature do when they come back, DeWine thinks they need to keep a couple of things in mind.

“I think we need to make sure that the law is clear, that it tells people what can be done, what could not be done,” he said.

The lawmakers need to keep in mind that there are referendums in Ohio, the governor added.

“So whatever law is passed in regard to abortion, it needs to be something that can be sustained,” he said. “It needs to be something that is acceptable to the people of the state of Ohio, considering the fact that they can go to the ballot if they don’t like what the legislature does.”

Huffman addressed this remark.

“The changes that we would make to the heartbeat bill, trying to make it easier for everyone to understand, that could referended [sic],” the Senate President said. “I’m not sure that those are the changes that the pro-abortion folks would want to take the ballot.”

In ballot initiatives to protect abortion access, six out of six have passed in states around the country.

“But the action that I believe we’re going to take … should be something that everybody agrees to now,” Huffman said, noting that nothing has been decided yet.

OCJ/WEWS asked DeWine if he believes abortion access would pass as a constitutional amendment.

“Oh, look, you’re way ahead of where we ought to be,” DeWine said. “We would hope that the state legislature will come up with something, you know, again, that is sustainable, and I would expect that to happen.”

Abortion supporter reacts

The head of Pro-Choice Ohio said it is a bit too late to be having concerns now.

“Matt Huffman and his Republican colleagues intentionally broke Ohio’s health care system,” Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland told OCJ/WEWS.

The GOP targeted abortion providers, despite being warned about the impact their actions would have on patients and providers in medical settings across the state, she said.

“Now, they want to cover up the fact that they knew exactly the harms they were causing when they passed the 6-week abortion ban with fake compassion and concern,” she said. “Abortion bans are catastrophe for the practice of medicine in our state, and there is no way to change that with ‘better definitions.’”

Giving even more millions of dollars to crisis pregnancy centers is absurd because they’re not actual health care providers, she said, adding, “If Republicans are looking for a quick fix, they should admit that six-week ban hurt people and repeal it.”

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.



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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.