A new Ohio law is part of a wave of increasingly severe restrictions on abortion, which affects vast regions in the country. The Ohio law, in particular, exposes a new (and absurd) extreme of the backlash against abortion in the USA.
A new Ohio law is part of a wave of increasingly severe restrictions on abortion, which affects vast regions in the country. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal. Since then, anti-abortion activists and policymakers have continued to challenge this decision. President Trump's appointment of two new justices to the Supreme Court, both known for their anti-abortion positions, has encouraged anti-abortion groups and political players to go further in their drawbacks against the pro-choice legal and logistical achievements since the 1970s… to the point of absurdity.
As a starting point to developments in Ohio, USA, we first take a look at ectopic pregnancies (EP). These types of pregnancies cannot be carried out to completion. Without urgent surgical intervention, the evolution of the fertilized egg can cause the fallopian tube to burst and cause a potentially fatal hemorrhage to the female patient.
Dr. David Hackney, a gynecologist, reacted to the legislation on Twitter: "I don’t believe I’m typing this again but, that’s impossible. We’ll all be going to jail." Dr. Daniel Grossman, a specialist in the field of contraception and abortion, wrote a series of tweets that went viral last May as soon as the bill was published. He described certain parts of the bill as "pure science fiction", reminding us that EPs account for 1 to 3% of pregnancies and are responsible for 4% of maternal mortality. According to him, at least 2,000 women in the state of Ohio have an EP each year.
Put simply: "There is no procedure for re-implanting an ectopic pregnancy... It's not physiologically possible," said Dr. Chris Zahn, vice president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
House Bill 413 prohibits abortion altogether and defines a fertilized egg as an "unborn child". Physicians who refuse to re-implant an EP in the uterus would be charged with "murder by abortion" and face stiff penalties, that include life imprisonment. The same would apply to women aged 13 and over who have abortions. "Aggravated murder by abortion" would be punishable by death.
Last summer, the state of Ohio had already approved a ban on abortion beyond six weeks' gestation. This so-called "heartbeat bill" (as it was called by its supporters) only allowed abortion during a period when most women do not yet know they are pregnant. Appeals filed by pro-choice groups have prevented this law from coming into force. Regarding the new bill 413, none of the anti-abortion associations wished to express their views.
At present, abortion is legal in all 50 US states. However, women's access to abortion services is very fragile, constantly under attack by anti-abortion groups that work to multiply legal, financial, logistical and communication obstacles for legal abortion services to be provided across the US.