It’s yet another attempt to criminalize providers.
Throughout the past year, abortion access in the United States has becoming increasingly fraught. Who can forget Texas’ draconian law that essentially outlawed abortions overnight and the Supreme Court’s decision to let that law remain earlier this month? Unfortunately, another state has joined Texas’ ranks with its own absurd law. This week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an anti-abortion bill that may result in the state to shut down.
On Wednesday, Gov. DeWine (R) signed Senate Bill 157. The legislation began as a bill that required health care workers to try and preserve life if a baby is born alive after an attempted abortion. Now, let’s pause for a second and unpack this, because the notion that abortion providers run around killing babies after they are born is a conservative dogwhistle that’s come up before.
During a 2019 Wisconsin rally, former president Donald Trump stated that Gov. Tony Evers (D) would veto a proposed “born alive” legislation. Much like Ohio’s bill, the legislation — which passed the state’s Republican Senate in September — requires health care workers to provide life-preserving care if a baby is born after an abortion procedure.
“Your Democrat governor here in Wisconsin, shockingly, stated that he will veto legislation that protects Wisconsin babies born alive,” Trump said. “The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
Of course, the “logic” here piggy-backs off the notion that abortion is murder and attempts to further stigmatize providers. There are a few important things to address. First, it’s hard to say exactly how many infants are born after abortion procedures, but it’s generally rare. The Toledo Blade reported that a CDC review of infant morality data from 2003 and 2014 showed only 143 deaths were infants that “displayed signs of life after an induced termination.”
As outlined by Fact Check, most abortions in the U.S. happen early on in pregnancy — in 2015, the CDC reported that 65% of abortions were done in the first eight weeks of pregnancy. But when it comes to preterm births, a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine on preterm births said: “Active [lifesaving] intervention for infants born before 22 weeks of gestation is generally not recommended, whereas the approach for infants born at or after 22 weeks of gestation varies.”
But let’s cut to the chase: It is already illegal to kill babies who are born. That, my friends, would be called homicide. And, in fact, Ohio doctors are already required to provide care to babies born after “failed abortions” by both state law and their own medical oaths. The Toledo Blade reported that doctors at abortion clinics were already required to provide care to a baby, call 911, and arrange transportation to a hospital.
Unfortunately, there’s another part to SB 157. The law also bans abortion clinics from working with physicians who "teach or provide instruction, directly or indirectly, at a medical school or osteopathic medical school affiliated with a state university or college ... any state hospital, or other public institution." To those in the state, this portion of the bill poses the great threat.
“The bill’s purpose is to stigmatize essential health care, criminalize doctors, and eliminate abortion access,” Planned Parenthood Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin said in a statement. “[L]awmakers used this bill as a trojan horse to hide the true, insidious intent: A last-minute, targeted restriction on abortion providers (TRAP law) that would allow the Department of Health to revoke ambulatory surgical licenses, shutting down health centers and fully eliminating abortion access in Southwest Ohio."
SB 157 was sponsored by two Republican state Senators: Terry Johnson, a retired doctor, and Steve Huffman, a practicing physician. CNN reported that Johnson thanked DeWine for “for standing up for Ohio's newborns and protecting life at its most vulnerable stage,” adding, “Every child, no matter the circumstances surrounding his or her birth, deserves our compassion and care."
As mentioned above, this isn’t the first “born alive” bill to be introduced in the U.S. In January, Kentucky passed a similar law and it went into effect without Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s signature. But, abortion providers in Ohio aren’t going to quietly accept SB 157.
“Anti-abortion politicians have made it their job to bury abortion providers under so many TRAP laws that providing and accessing essential health care to Ohioans has become an obstacle course,” Kersha Deibel, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, said in a statement. “Stripping abortion care from Southwest Ohio will cause havoc that disproportionately impacts our communities. Abortion is still legal in Ohio. This isn't the end, and we will continue to fight."