Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Robin Bravender/States Newsroom.
With the end of Roe v. Wade and the battle over abortion bans still waging in the state, the Ohio Department of Health’s annual abortion report showed some of the effects.
From 2021 to 2022, the state saw a 15% decrease in “induced pregnancy terminations,” according to the state agency that has tracked abortion statistics since 1976.
The data comes as campaigns are in full swing for and against a ballot initiative that would add reproductive rights including abortion into the Ohio Constitution. Voters will decide on the issue during the Nov. 7 general election, after the Ohio Supreme Court recently approved the state ballot board’s summary language of the amendment.
One change that has been made since the last annual report was a modification to the “confidential abortion report,” which now has questions about a physician’s “examination and assessment of a fetal heartbeat,” which was added to the report as of June 2022.
The change came along with an Oct. 2022 meeting in which the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review approved an administrative rule on “appropriate methods for determining presence of fetal heartbeat.”
The rule defines a fetal heartbeat as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart with the gestational sac,” something ODH Assistant Director Lance Himes said was “verbatim from Senate Bill 23.”
Senate Bill 23 is the law that banned abortions at six weeks gestation, passed by the Ohio legislature in 2019. After it was passed in 2019, legal challengers jumped in to put a stop to the law, ensnaring the law in court battles until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost immediately moved to get the law reinstated with the Dobbs decision, and was successful, until a new legal challenge in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court again paused its implementation.
That law has been under legal scrutiny since its inception, but the Ohio Supreme Court just heard oral arguments related to the case, with the state asking for the abortion ban to be allowed to continue while the case is decided once and for all.
The heartbeat detection rule was put in place on June 24, 2022, for the purposes of ODH reporting. From June 24 until September 14, 2022, only 20 of the examinations found a heartbeat, compared to 1,947 pregnancies in which a fetal heartbeat was not detected.
In those 20 cases in which a heartbeat was found, the procedure was “induced, performed or attempted because of a medical necessity or medical emergency,” which can include prevention of the death or serious risk to the pregnant person, according to the report data.
Conditions that caused the need for an abortion after fetal heartbeat included cardiac disease, infection, “inevitable abortion,” and premature rupture of the membrane, often called “water breaking.”
The ODH found that of the 18,488 abortions reported in Ohio, 93% of them were obtained by Ohio residents, according to the report released in September.
The majority of the abortions that happened in the state, 66.5%, happened at less than nine weeks, with another 22.5% happening at nine to 12 weeks.
Of the 342 terminations conducted after 19 weeks gestation, all but one were non-viable pregnancies.
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