Help Stop Ohio's Terrible New Anti-Abortion Bill

[Content note: abortion]

Note: If you already know all about Ohio’s terrible new anti-abortion bill, scroll all the way to the end to find out how to try to stop it. If not, read on.

Last Tuesday night, I and–at times–150,000 other people stayed up to watch the livestream of the 12-hour filibuster in the Texas state legislature. State senator Wendy Davis and her fellow Democrats helped prevent (temporarily) the passage of what would’ve been one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country. Davis overcame exhaustion, hunger, and her Republican opponents’ bad-faith attempts to get her to go off-topic (in Texas, filibusters must remain “germane” to the bill at hand), to claim that she was breaking rules, and, when the going got tough, to cheat and try to pass the bill after the midnight deadline.

Unfortunately, Davis’ victory was only temporary, and Texas is only one of the the states where reproductive rights are constantly under assault.

My home state of Ohio (I use the word “home” loosely here) just passed House Bill 200, a bill similar to the one that got filibustered in Texas, except worse. Some of its provisions include:

  • Doctors must explain to patients seeking abortion how their fetus’ nerves develop, and to tell them that, even in the first trimester, a fetus can feel pain. There is no scientific evidence of this.
  • Doctors must also tell patients that abortions are linked to breast cancer. There is no scientific evidence of this either.
  • As in the Texas bill, abortion providers in Ohio must be within 30 miles of a hospital, but here’s the new catch–it cannot be a public hospital. So if there are no non-public hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic, then the clinic must shut down.
  • Doctors must inform patients seeking abortions exactly how much money the clinic made from abortions within the past year, and how much money the clinic stands to lose if the patient chooses not to get an abortion. In case it’s unclear, the point of this is to warn patients that there is a “conflict of interest” involved in providing abortions because clinics can make money from them. This is ridiculous because any medical procedure can make money for doctors and hospitals.
  • Before this bill, patients seeking abortions in Ohio were already required to view an ultrasound of the fetus. Now, the doctor must describe the fetus visually and explain the current development of its features. Although the bill doesn’t stipulate what type of ultrasound it has to be, it does require for it to produce a clear image of the entire body of the fetus, and for first-trimester patients, that probably requires an invasive transvaginal ultrasound. Victims of sexual assault are not exempt, and the patients must pay extra for the ultrasound.
  • The mandatory wait period for an abortion in Ohio used to be 24 hours; now it will be 48 unless there is a dire medical need to terminate the pregnancy. Again, victims of sexual assault are not exempt. While some people may claim that it shouldn’t be a big deal to have a wait a day or two, remember: restrictions like these disproportionately impact teenagers, the poor, and those who live in rural areas. For a teenager to miss school and get a ride to an abortion clinic without their parents’ knowledge is difficult enough already; doing it twice is even harder. Same for a poor person who has to skip work, and for a person living in a rural area who has to drive a long way to get to an abortion clinic (and it’ll be even longer thanks to the closures that will occur as a result of this bill). In any case, having to wait, especially having to wait a longer period of time, causes stress and anxiety. These politicians seem to be hoping that that stress and anxiety somehow dissuades the person from getting the abortion.
  • Before, a doctor could get a medical waiver to bypass these restrictions if the pregnancy was causing health problems. But now, doctors will only be able to get those waivers if the potential health risks are so great that the pregnant person could die. Anything less than death, apparently, is no big deal.

These abortion restrictions are like the proverbial frog in boiling water. They do it gradually–a 24-hour waiting period here, a mandatory ultrasound there. So what if doctors must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals? Doesn’t that make abortion safer? (No.)

But before you know it, abortion is nearly or completely unavailable in a given state, and the degree to which it is unavailable varies according to how much money, status, and support you have. Those people who will be most harmed by an unplanned-for and unwanted child will also be the ones for whom abortions are hardest to access. This is unconscionable and it must stop.

Furthermore, most of these restrictions are predicated on the belief that pregnant individuals cannot be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies on their own. They need waiting periods. They need to be shown ultrasounds. They need their fetus’ development described to them. They need to be informed, as though they are completely clueless and ignorant, that doctors make money when they perform medical procedures.

Of course, the point of the bills is not to make abortion safer. This must be stressed over and over again. The point of the bills is to make abortion difficult or impossible to access. Do not fall for the Republicans’ paternalistic claptrap about how they’re just trying to keep women (they think everyone who gets an abortion is a woman) safer. They’re trying to outlaw abortion, slowly and surely.

How do I know? Many reasons, and I’ll use the very similar Texas bill as an example. Texas Republican legislator referred to opponents of the filibustered bill as “terrorists.” Texas Governor Rick Perry, defending the bill, said that “the louder the opposition screams, the more we know we’re doing something right.” (Yes, that is as rapey as it sounds.) Texas Lieutanant Governor David Dewhurst said that the protesters who prevented the bill’s passage “disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” Where’s the compassion and the concern for safeguarding women’s health now?

As I mentioned, the Ohio bill has already passed. It was included last-minute in a state budget bill, leaving reproductive rights advocates no time to organize any resistance like they did in Texas.

However, Ohio Governor John Kasich has until midnight tomorrow (Sunday) to veto any or all of the bill’s provisions. Kasich, a Republican, has said that he opposes abortion, but maybe even he will realize that this is just too much.

Here’s what you can do: call Gov. Kasich at (614) 466-3555 or email him here and let him know you oppose House Bill 200. I just did. Remember what I wrote about online activism? We can make a difference.

Help Stop Ohio's Terrible New Anti-Abortion Bill

31 thoughts on “Help Stop Ohio's Terrible New Anti-Abortion Bill

  1. 1

    Also, abortion restrictions in the law do one thing, and one thing only: drive people who need abortions underground, where they end up with people like that incompetent butcher in Pennsylvania.

    Abortion restrictions do not lower the number of abortions. They lower the number of abortions performed in conditions and with techniques which favour the survival of the mother.

    People who lobby for this don’t give a rat’s arse about the zygotes. What they care about is controlling the sexuality of women (and, though I’m sure they’d never think of the possibility, other people with uteri).

    The 800 number won’t work outside the US, unfortunately, but the e-mail address is a good approach, for those of us outside the US but still wanting to help.

    1. 1.1

      I think it’s about punishing women, even more than controlling them.

      You’re absolutely right that this won’t stop abortions, only make them more dangerous. On the other hand, there are three things which have been shown to reduce the number of abortions: proper sex education, access to contraceptives, and financial help for the poorest families (the commonest reason patients give for having an abortion is, “I can’t feed another one.”). This is why Europe has such a low abortion rate. The USA has 21.3 abortions per 1,000. Holland has 6.5.

      And do Ohio republicans favour proper sex education, access to contraceptives, and financial help for the poorest families? Suddenly “saving babies” isn’t so important.

    1. 2.1

      Nope, a fetus is not a child, and there is no other circumstance in which we demand that a person use their body to sustain another, not even if the other person would die otherwise. We do not force people to donate blood or organs, not even after they die. There is no ethical reason, then, to force a person to sustain a clump of cells that is not even a human being. There is only a religious reason, and all of us do not share your religion. Though, even if we did, we have church-state separation in this country for a reason. It’s enshrined in our constitution for a reason. Your religious beliefs, however dear they are to you, must not dictate law and policy for the rest of us.

    2. 2.2

      Category error.

      A zygote, which cannot survive except as a parasite, is no more entitled to the body it occupies than is a tapeworm. When it can exist on its own, I’ll give it the same due as a human being. Until then, it is not, no matter whether it will make the baby Jeebus* cry or not.

      * About whose imaginary tears I care considerably less than those of the non-imaginary beings whom your dogma would force to be birthing machines.

    3. 2.3

      Right now, a sixteen-year-old child is dying of kidney failure. He’s on the waiting list for an organ transplant, but he’s running out of time. Doctors figure he’s got a week left. Maybe two if he’s lucky.

      Fortunately, it turns out that you’re a match. You’re the right blood type, the right body size, the tissue matching is positive … your kidney could save this child.

      The ambulance will be arriving at your house tonight to take you to the hospital for surgery.

      Wait, what? You can’t do that. What about the risks? Kidney donation is major surgery, and there’s always the chance of death by bleeding or infection!

      You’ll be happy to know that I’ve considered the risks for you, and I’ve found them to be acceptable, given the stakes.

      But I have a medical condition that makes surgery extremely dangerous. There’s a good chance this could kill me.

      I’m sorry to hear that. Please make sure you don’t eat or drink anything from now until the procedure.

      The surgery requires three weeks off of work. I’ll lose my job! I’m a single parent trying to look after three children.

      Your inability to plan and manage your own life shouldn’t cost this child his chance.

      Continued at:

    4. 2.4

      If the anti-choice folks actually cared about children born or unborn, they would be pushing for better prenatal care for poor women, expanding Medicaid to cover more children, expanding the food stamp program so children don’t go hungry, they would be opposed to war except as a last resort and would never support a war of choice, and yet when you look at the so-called “pro-life” politicians they’re doing the exact opposite. Heck, if they really wanted to reduce the number of abortions the easiest way to do that is through comprehensive sex education and making contraception more easily available. But the anti-choicers instead push “abstinence only” sex ed and are trying to make birth control harder to obtain, (i.e. by asserting employers have the right to decide whether their female employees can pay for birth control with their insurance plans). The whole abortion debate isn’t about life at all, it’s about power and control, and whether people should be allowed to make the most intimate decisions about their lives themselves or have the government make them for them.

  2. 3

    Something that bothers me is that politicians get to vote on telling doctors what to do and say, even when there is no scientific evidence for the politician’s statement. Effectively, it’s like saying you can legislate reality; no evidence exists that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, *but* doctors are supposed to say so? With an attitude so contemptuous of actual facts, outrages like this don’t surprise me.

    Plus, this is classism in the extreme. It’s obviously intended just to make abortion difficult to obtain inversely proportional to your financial resources. It seems like just another plank in the ‘fuck the poor’ platform of Republicans.

    I’m also not really getting the waiting period. It isn’t like a woman seeking an abortion hasn’t already thought about it for quite likely a lot longer than 48 hours. It’s just a hoop to jump through. Of course, most of these (mostly male) Republican legislators probably assume that no woman ever thinks about if abortion is a good idea but has just been programmed to seek them by liberals. Before demanding a waiting period, I think there needs to be evidence that it matters.

    1. 3.1

      The TPEP found that while “there has been a decline in the number of women who obtain abortions” in Texas since HB15 passed, that decline is not due to a decreased need or desire, but to an increase in logistical and financial hurdles. In other words: women who already cannot afford to take off work, to travel long distances to doctors or to pay for out-of-pocket expenses related to their procedures are being forced to continue unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has projected an increase of 23,760 births in 2014-15 due to reduced access to state-subsidized contraception, at an additional cost to taxpayers of up to $273 million.

      But TPEP has been looking at the impact on individual Texans in real time. Over the last year, TPEP surveyed 318 women seeking abortion care, as well as “several large clinics.” Their findings show that the largest deterrent over the past year for Texans seeking safe, legal abortion care has been the forced 24-hour waiting period, which requires patients to make two visits to their doctors, a visit first for a forced ultrasound and a second 24 hours or more later for their procedure.

      “These regulations with HB 15 do not positively impact women’s decision-making,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman with the TPEP, “and in fact are burdensome for women.”

      What wasn’t a factor in deterring Texans from getting abortions? The required viewing of a forced ultrasound before their procedures. Eighty-nine percent of women surveyed by the TPEP said that even after being made to view the ultrasound image, they were as confident as ever about their decision to end their pregnancies.

  3. 5

    I really just cannot even comprehend this, how this will impact the poor, young people, and so many others across so many different demographics. It’s sad how misogynistic the Republican party continues to be, that they don’t think that women (because that’s who they think get abortions all the time, those silly wimmins) have good enough heads on their shoulders to really consider and weigh their options.

    What’s worse is that women who choose abortion will not stop getting them just because there’s nowhere legal to get them. They’ll just stop getting safe abortions with the appropriate medical care, stop going to doctors who know what they’re doing. When performed correctly with the proper equipment, abortion is an incredibly safe procedure, and to deny people of that shows, very simply, a complete and utter disregard for human life as well as the safety and overall well-being (physical and psychological) of any person who gets an abortion (exclusively women, in their minds).

    The fact that they’re forcing doctors to actually lie crosses yet another line. You can’t legislate these lies into being true. But then, I suppose real evidence and truth aren’t important in these cases. All that matters is punishing women for having sex and forcing them into lives that they didn’t want, all as a huge “fuck you” to any woman who might want to make her own decisions instead of having a group of old guys with no experience speculate on her whole future.

  4. 9

    “Doctors must inform patients seeking abortions exactly how much money the clinic made from abortions within the past year, and how much money the clinic stands to lose if the patient chooses not to get an abortion.” That fits in with other anti-capitalist rhetoric emitted by opponents of abortion.

    That is rather curious, since a major item of US right-wing political correctness is the absolute goodness of capitalism. Yes, absolute goodness. Consider all the right-wingers who admire Ayn Rand and her works. Consider Michele Bachmann celebrating Communist China as super capitalist a few years back. Etc.

    So either they did not think their position through, or else they are playing on anti-capitalist sentiment. Or both.

  5. 10

    Well, Ohio’s temporarily taken the lead over Texas in the race to the depths. (Texas starts yet another special session for their anti-abortion omnibus bill in about nine hours.)

    Despite protests at the Ohio Statehouse last week, the new anti-abortion measures were approved when the governor failed to veto them. Kasich did manage to veto 22 other line-item measures.

    Gag rules on rape crisis centers, funding diverted to crisis pregnancy lie-to-women centers, and abortion clinics forced to make agreements with private (probably religious) non-public hospitals.

    But at least Kasich couldn’t gloat to reporters about it. That’s a start.

    “Ohio is healing without any doubt,” Kasich said. “We still have too many Ohioans out of work.”

    Kasich made no mention of his 22 vetoes or the contentious anti-abortion measures kept in the plan.

    He quickly left his Statehouse office after signing the document, not allowing reporters to ask questions.

    The budget goes into effect Monday.

    HuffPo link

    Cleveland Plain Dealer link

    1. 10.1

      Only now I realized I have repeatedly misread “rape crisis centers” as “crisis pregnancy centers” in the last few days. There I was wondering why they need to be told to not advocate abortion…

      Also, what’s with the private hospital admittance requirement? Is it possibly related to the virulent idea that public healthcare system (whatever that amounts to in Ohio) must in no way be involved with abortions? Even in those rare cases when someone actually needs hospital care after legal abortion gone awry? How very evil.

      (Off topic: I think the anklehug meme you started on Pharyngula was totally adorable. In that spirit, would it be appropriate to offer you a hug-with-palms, or “handhug”?)

  6. 12

    You’re right about online activism, Miri, so I quoted you and wrote a little bit myself to pass this info along. I’m no loud voice, but I’ll do what I can to promote things like this. This is absolutely important for anyone who needs to have the option of an abortion sometime in their life. Thank you for being a loud supporter.

  7. 14

    Frankly, and I know this is harsh…good.

    People get the government they deserve. The people of Ohio voted for these morons, and now they’re reaping the ‘benefits’.

    You want government to protect the rights of women? Elect a better government.

    Elect better state representatives. That’s the message. Then elect a better governor.

    If you can’t do that, all the whining in the world doesn’t matter. The power is at the ballot box, and for too darn long progressives have been ceding that territory to the right-wingers. Especially at the state level.

    Get busy backing better candidates.

    FWIW: I met Kasich at some nonpolitical functions back when he was an up-and-coming. A more disingenuous hypocritical greasy-handed rat you would never meet. He blows exactly whichever way the wind blows to exactly the degree the wind is blowing in that direction. He is a weather-vane politician of the highest order of magnitude.

    1. 14.1

      SOME of the people of Ohio voted for these politicians, and ALL of the people of Ohio are now reaping the benefits. The fact that some women probably voted for anti-choice politicians does not somehow make it okay that all women are now being denied their rights. I don’t understand your point.

    2. 14.2

      This IS how you take action to make the necessary changes. Would you like to talk about gerrymandering now? How about voter suppression tactics?

      Miri, if I call this guy names, does that violate your commenting policy?

    3. 14.3

      Shame on you, Kevin. I would hope that someone from the South would understand how inane and oppressive that sentiment is, since I’m pretty sure you didn’t vote Miller, Shuler, or Kissell out of office and you didn’t have a hand in most of the 170 state senators and representatives who make the laws in your state, but you have to put up with Republican wankery anyway.
      Even with that aside, no uterus-haver deserves to have hir bodily autonomy taken away from hir.

    1. 15.1

      Sorry, but nobody deserves to be denied control of their own bodies. This is not the time for vague cliches.

      *edit* I’m actually unsure whether you were disagreeing with the phrase about people getting the government they deserve or not, but if you were, then cool, we agree.

      At its core it’s a victim-blaming thing to say, especially given that people do not have nearly as much control over who leads them as many believe.

      1. Exactly, and similarly to Kevin – these arguments assume facts not in evidence, namely, that anyone writing or reading this post didn’t do their utmost to prevent this. That’s a bad-faith assumption, that the people you’re chastising didn’t vote for people who wanted or tried to stop this very thing.

        Given the government of Ohio has been systematically disenfranchising those it sees as its opponents – by voting-access restrictions, as noted, and by gerrymandering of districts – it’s even nastier an assumption.

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