Here’s what media should know about the extreme “heartbeat bill” passed by the Ohio House

The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would ban abortions around six weeks into a pregnancy -- a point at which many people do not even know that they are pregnant. Local and national media outlets have provided important context about how this bill, which is expected to become state law, will be dangerous for abortion rights in Ohio and potentially across the United States if it is adopted or challenged at the federal level.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

The Ohio House recently passed a bill that would ban abortions around six weeks into a pregnancy -- and it’s likely to become law in Ohio

On November 15, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would ban abortions when a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat. As Rewire.News explained, this “can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy,” even though this is at the point “well before many people even realize they’re pregnant.” The bill “would make it a felony for providers to perform an abortion without first determining whether there is a detectable fetal heartbeat” and provides exceptions only when “there is a medical emergency or medical necessity.”

The bill was introduced to the Ohio Senate on November 19, where it is expected to pass. Gov. John Kasich has said he will veto the bill just as he vetoed a similar bill in 2016 (Kasich then signed a 20-week ban on abortion). But unlike last time, the Ohio House may have enough votes to override his veto. Even if the House does not, incoming Gov.-elect Mike DeWine has pledged to sign a “heartbeat bill” in 2019.

Here’s what media should know about the extreme “heartbeat bill” just passed by the Ohio House

The bill was drafted as an explicit challenge to federal abortion protections established in Roe v. Wade.

According to The New York Times’ Christina Caron, the Ohio bill “was crafted specifically to challenge Roe v. Wade,” because its lead sponsor, Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan, said that “Ohio is best positioned to send this through the Circuit Courts and to the federal Supreme Court.” Anti-abortion activist Janet Porter drafted the bill as part of her push for passage of a “heartbeat bill” at both the state and federal level. Porter, who is known outside of Ohio for defending former Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore after reports that he sexually assaulted children, sees her “heartbeat bill” as “arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade.”

Anti-abortion advocates are pushing the bill because Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court and could vote to overturn Roe

Abortion opponents are eager for Ohio to pass this extreme restriction because of President Donald Trump's appointment of two conservative Supreme Court justices. As ThinkProgress’ Amanda Michelle Gomez explained, “anti-abortion lawmakers hope the measure is challenged in court so they can appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court, where newly-appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh will be the fifth critical vote, likely approving the law and thus triggering a challenge to the constitutional right to abortion” found in Roe v. Wade. According to Ohio’s WBNS-10TV, Hagan said that because of Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch’s appointments to the Supreme Court, there is now “more favor and opportunity than ever for that extension of protection to be given to children in the womb."

Refinery29’s Andrea González-Ramírez noted that “anti-choice advocates have felt emboldened by the current administration” and the conservative balance of the Supreme Court. “Ohio's six-week abortion ban is just one of many new abortion restrictions that have been pushed forward this year,” González-Ramírez continued, explaining that federal courts have so far blocked 15-week abortion bans passed in Mississippi and Louisiana and another “heartbeat bill” that passed in Iowa because these laws violate the standard set in Roe.

Brigitte Amiri, the deputy director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said the Ohio bill “is unfortunately a harbinger of what’s to come once anti-abortion state legislatures gavel back into session in 2019.”

Abortion is already difficult to access in Ohio, but people still come from other states where abortion care is even more inaccessible

Before the house vote, Akron Beacon Journal’s editorial board came out against the bill, saying that Ohio Republicans “would do well to acknowledge the extent to which they already have limited access to abortion” in the state. The board pointed to the passage of “20 provisions curbing the choice of women to seek an abortion” over eight years as evidence against the need for further restrictions:

Today, in Ohio, for instance, a woman must receive state-designed counseling, intended largely to discourage getting an abortion. Then, she must wait 24 hours. If she chooses to go ahead with the procedure, that means making a second trip to the facility.

More, health plans offered in Ohio under the insurance exchange of the Affordable Care Act cover abortion only if the woman’s life is endangered or in cases of rape or incest. Similar limits apply in health coverage for public employees.

In 2011, there were 18 abortion clinics in Ohio. Today, the number is eight. The state has one of the most restrictive anti-abortion regimens in the country. It follows that the numbers indicate more Ohio women going to Michigan for abortion services.

Yet the state of abortion access is so precarious that people seeking abortions from other states still travel to Ohio for care. As Jennifer Spinosi, who is on the board of directors of an Ohio abortion fund, explained for NBC News, not only do “many Ohioans already travel out of state to receive care — to Michigan, Pennsylvania, sometimes as far as Maryland or Colorado,” but “people from other states are occasionally forced to travel to Ohio for abortion access — many from Kentucky and West Virginia, states which have only one clinic today.”

This bill will essentially ban abortion and be “especially harsh on women of color, low-income families, and younger women”

Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote on Twitter that Ohio bill “would remove abortion as an option altogether” for many given that “menstrual cycles are often varied and irregular, so sometimes a patient comes in after six weeks because they didn't know they were pregnant.” Because of this, Grossman called the bill “not medically sound” and potentially harmful to patients. The Ohio State Medical Association also opposes the bill.

Speaking to writer Sarah Stankorb in Glamour, Grossman said:

When women do not have access to safe, legal abortion nearby, many women will do whatever they can to try to access care. … Some women may travel out of state to access legal services. They may be delayed in the process and end up obtaining the abortion later in pregnancy, which may increase the risks and cost of the procedure.

Stankorb further explained that, “With that in mind, it’s no surprise abortion bans like the one passed in Ohio are especially harsh on women of color, low-income families, and younger women.”