One week before Christmas, Ohio Governor John Kasich gave the women in his state a strange gift: He made the most common abortion procedure illegal, with exceptions only in cases where the woman’s health or life was at stake, and not for rape or incest. Healthcare providers were included in this bout of holiday cheer, too—in the form of new legal guidelines which leave them at risk of serving up to 18 months in prison if they perform the procedure.
The ACLU described Ohio Senate Bill 145 as using “deliberately inflammatory language” and being “designed to prevent a woman from obtaining safe and legal reproductive health care.” The procedure it targets—a Dilation and Evacuation abortion, or D&E, is also commonly used after miscarriages, and although it carries less risk than the induction of labor, the more dangerous alternative will now take precedent.
This spectacular legislation was also a parting gift from Kasich as he made way for a new governor. Mike DeWine, who assumed the office this month, has said he is in favor of signing into law another piece of anti-abortion legislation: House Bill 258, which would ultimately all-but outlaw the procedure in the state. (Kasich said in a statement that he struck down the legislation to avoid lawsuits.) Regardless, the state will now be left to grapple with the fallout of Kasich’s decision to sign Ohio’s so-called “Dismemberment Abortion Ban” into law—a cruel, crass term used by lobbyists from the Ohio Right to Life, who admit it is a “legal term of art,” similar to “partial birth abortion,” and not actually a medical or legal term.
Despite talking points from anti-abortion lobbyists, women who already have children and many who are over 40 seek out abortions in the second trimester because of fetal anomalies. Abortions frequently occur after 13 weeks of pregnancy because the health and genetic condition of the fetus are not known until the second trimester, and nearly half of serious pregnancy complications won’t be detected until halfway through a normal 40-week pregnancy. (For the male lawmakers who can’t do the math: That’s 20 weeks.)
None of this mattered to Kasich, who chose to present the issue in terms of morality rather than evidence-based knowledge, threatening physicians with fourth-degree felonies in the process. His woefully and willfully ignorant decision is in stark opposition to the perspectives of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—which supports access to Planned Parenthood and postpartum care, addressing concerns about maternal mortality and fighting against restrictions and barriers to access to all levels of care for women’s reproductive health. It’s also likely that despite his legal concerns about HB 258, courts will also block SB 145 from taking effect, as they have in seven states with the same bans on the books.
The bottom line is that neither John Kasich nor Mike DeWine are OB/GYNs, and neither of them—nor any governor nationwide—should be allowed to make healthcare decisions for women.
“Ohioans do not want politicians interfering in our medical decisions,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland told Cleveland.com. She added that she wants politicians “to stop criminalizing women’s health care” and “substituting political agendas for the expertise of healthcare professionals.”