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Abortion in the U.S.

Ohio anti-abortion bills
(House Bills, HB-228 & HB-239)

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The Ohio anti-abortion bills

With the confirmation of two additional strict constructionist Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in early 2006, and the resulting swing of the court's political philosophy to the right, some pro-life advocates see an opportunity to overturn the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. This would allow individual states to criminalize most abortions within their jurisdiction. By 2005-MAR, legislators in about nine states were drafting anti-abortion bills. So far, all appear to allow abortions in those rare cases where the procedure is needed to save the life of the woman. Some bills would also allow abortions if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. Two bills to criminalize or restrict abortion have been introduced into the Ohio legislature. One would aggressively criminalize almost all abortions in the state; the other would merely increase restrictions on abortion. The two bills reflect an internal dispute among the pro-life movement. One faction wants to go for broke and try to wipe out almost all abortions as soon as possible. They are heavily motivated by the knowledge that about 3,500 abortions are being performed daily. The other faction wants to continue the decades-old policy of gradually restricting access to abortion.

All nine bills are clearly unconstitutional at this time, because they obviously violate the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling. However, they are being specifically introduced because they are unconstitutional. The goal is to encourage a lawsuit to have the bill declared unconstitutional. The suit would then be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes that it would finally be found constitutional.

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House Bill 228 introduced:

Representative Tim Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) drafted an anti-abortion bill with the cooperation of Citizens for Community Values, a conservative Christian group based in Cincinnati, and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. It was introduced Ohio House Bill 228 in 2005-APR-29. Other supporting organizations include the Pro-Family Network and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. Representatives of Life Issues Institute of College Hill and the Pro Family Network have also indicated support. Eighteen other representatives are co-sponsors.

Information about the bill seems confusing. Some sources seem to imply that Bill 228 would basically introduce enforced childbirth for every pregnant woman in the state by forbidding all abortions, even those needed to save the mother's life:

bulletAccording to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, this bill would "ban all abortions in Ohio, without exception." 5 [Emphasis ours]
bulletThePetitionSite.com has a petition available for persons opposed to the bill. It states:

"Tom Brinkman introduced House Bill 228, dangerous legislation that would outlaw all abortion in the state without exception - not even to save the life of the woman, not even in the case of rape or incest. It would even make it a felony to transport a woman across state lines to obtain an abortion.' 7 [Emphasis ours]

bulletMark Harrington Live.com has a petition for those supporting the bill. It states that the bill would "ban abortion in the state." 8 [Emphasis ours]
bulletThe preamble to the bill itself states that the goal of the bill is to:

"...prohibit abortions in this state, to increase the penalties for the offenses of unlawful abortion, unlawful distribution of an abortion-inducing drug, and abortion trafficking, to enact the offense of facilitating an abortion, and to make conforming changes in related provisions." 4 [Emphasis ours]

But the text of the bill seems to tell another story. 4 In particular, abortions would be allowed if needed to save the pregnant woman's life:

bulletSec. 124.85 (b) prohibits state funds from being used "directly or indirectly" to fund insurance policies whose coverage includes abortion -- even those required to prevent the death of the woman.
bulletSec. 2919.12. (A) states that:
"No person shall perform do any of the following:"
  1. Perform or induce an abortion; [or]
  2. Transport another, or cause another to be transported, across the boundary of this state or of any county in this state in order to facilitate the other person having an abortion."
bulletHowever, there is an exception to preserve the life of the woman: Section A1 would not apply to a:

 "... person who provides medical treatment to a pregnant woman to prevent the death of the pregnant woman and who, as a proximate result of the provision of that medical treatment but without intent to do so, causes the termination of the pregnant woman's pregnancy."

bulletAnyone "facilitating an abortion" by transporting "another, or cause another to be transported, across the boundary of this state or of any county in this state in order to facilitate the other person having an abortion" 4 would be guilty of a second degree felony. This might be interpreted as applying to a taxi driver, bus driver, etc. even though they might not be aware that the woman is planning to have an abortion.
bulletSec. 4731.91 specifically prohibits public and private hospitals from performing abortions.
bulletA woman who wants an abortion in order to prevent a serious health problem -- perhaps involving permanent disability -- could not legally obtain one in the state. 2 She could go to another state for an abortion, but she would have to do this on her own. She could not enlist anyone's assistance without causing them to be liable for a felony charge.

There are at least two novel features of this bill:

bulletIt would appeal all existing state legislation that restricts abortion. Thus, if this bill were to become law and later be overturned by the courts, the currently existing restrictions would not necessarily be restored.
bulletIt would criminalize the action of a person helping an adult pregnant woman to cross a state line in order to have a legal medical procedure performed elsewhere. That provision might well be unique in the history of the U.S., -- at least since the days of human slavery -- and may well make the bill unconstitutional.

Clyde Wilcox is a professor Georgetown University. His specialty is the politics of conservative Christians. He wrote:

"They have fought against Roe for so long [that]...they can taste victory, and they truly loathe abortion. [However] When Ohio citizens consider the possibility that their teenaged daughter might be raped, or might have a fetus growing in her that would never live to adulthood and suffer from serious defects, and that the birth might endanger their daughter�s life � almost all of them want an abortion to be legal." 2

Mark Harrington, executive director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Midwest, said in 2006-JAN:

"House Bill 228 provides the necessary constitutional challenge to strike down Roe versus Wade. It will immediately be challenged in the courts, and that's the strategy. House Bill 228 is a trigger law. The U.S. Supreme Court needs a law to trigger a review of Roe versus Wade." 3

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Hearings on House Bill 228:

Hearings began on 2006-JUN-13. At that time, the bill had 17 co-sponsors.

Rep. Chris Redfern, (D-Catawba Island) said that Republicans in the Ohio House are bringing up this legislation:

"...for the exact same reason as President Bush... using hot button issues to motivate the Republican right....Think about it. [Governor Bob] Taft considers himself to be a supporter of right to life. For 16 years the Republicans have controlled the statehouse and have controlled the legislature for 12 years. If they had wanted to pass an abortion ban they would have... Every two years they roll out these old ideas to motivate the Republican right.''

Brinkman denies this claim, saying:

"I introduced this bill more than a year ago. I'm 100 percent Pro Life. A year ago we didn't have the vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court.''

He is apparently referring to the new strict constructionists on the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Some conservatives believe that the present court may overturn their 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision.

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said:

"The purpose of H.B. 228 is to overturn Roe v. Wade....South Dakota was a wake-up call for a lot of people. South Dakota legislators launched an attack on a woman's right to choose. Will Ohio lawmakers now follow them down this path with an even more extreme ban?...We're gearing up, loaded for bear....We won't let this politically inspired attack on women's health go unanswered....We are ready to give them the fight of their lives....Most people don't know anything about [the bill]....The ban hasn't gotten a lot of press."

Denise Mackura, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said:

"Because it is prohibiting abortion we are certainly supportive of the underlying principle...The problem with this kind of law (H.B. 228) is that the lower courts will immediately strike it down.''

The Acron Beacon Journal commented:

"But the bill as it is currently written, she said, fails to safeguard some measures that anti-abortion advocates have fought to get into law -- such as informed consent that requires a minimum 24-hour waiting period for any woman seeking an abortion and parental consent for minors. As written, the bill would not only ban abortion, but would also require the repeal of all laws that regulate or restrict abortion. The fear among anti-abortion activists is that if the bill became law and was challenged and reversed by the courts, the statutes eliminated by the legislation would not automatically be reinstated." 9

Mark Harrington, Executive Director of the Center for Bio Ethical Reform Midwest, said:

"South Dakota is paving the way for states like Ohio to ban abortion. Skeptics said HB 228 would never even get a hearing. The skeptics were wrong. After months of putting pressure on legislators and the House leadership � the Ohio Abortion Ban is getting the attention it truly deserves. Unlike other pro life legislation that trims around the edges of abortion, HB 228 is a frontal attack on the very premise of Roe v. Wade. It is time to return the abortion issue to the states. It is time for Ohio to set its own abortion policy." 10

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House Bill 239:

State Representative Michelle Schneider (R-District 35, Cincinnati) introduced a bill that "prohibit the use of public funds or facilities for nontherapeutic abortions, proscribe public employees acting in the scope of their employment from performing or inducing a nontherapeutic abortion, and... declare that it is the public policy of the state to prefer childbirth over abortion to the extent that is constitutionally permissible." They define a "Nontherapeutic abortion" as any "abortion that is performed or induced when the life of the mother would not be endangered if the fetus were carried to term."

Exceptions would be made in some cases where the pregnancy was induced through rape or incest. 6 There does not appear to be any restriction in the bill that would:

bulletPrevent abortions from being performed in private clinics, or
bulletPrevent a woman from traveling to another state or country to obtain an abortion.

The bill has 50 co-sponsors. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, although Ohio would go on record as preferring childbirth over abortion, it would not provide "...a dime to expand prenatal care and services for low-income and single women."

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Related essays on this web site:

bulletAnti-abortion bills in various states
bulletLaws restricting abortion in the U.S. and Canada
bulletRoe v. Wade: Its basis; court philosophies; political aspects
bulletThe future battle over women's access to abortion; The impact if Roe v. Wade is overturned

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Abortion bill sure to fuel fire. Ohio law would make act a felony," Newspaper Network of Central Ohio, 2006-MAR-20`at: http://www.centralohio.com/
  2. Charu Gupta, "And The Ban Played On: Ohio abortion opponents differ over staying the course or declaring war on Roe v. Wade.," Free Times, undated, at: http://www.freetimes.com/
  3. John Craig, "Bill seeks abortion's end in Ohio. Backers say it could help overturn Roe v. Wade," Columbus Enquirer, 2006-JAN-19, at: http://news.enquirer.com/
  4. The text of Bill 228 can be read at: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/
  5. "Ohio Abortion Ban Proposed," NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, at: http://www.prochoiceohio.org/
  6. The text of Bill 239 can be read at: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=126_HB_239
  7. "Stop Ohio House Bill 228," The Petition Site, aat: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/
  8. "Sign the Petition to Ban Abortion in Ohio," Activist Radio, at: http://www.markharringtonlive.com/
  9. Carl Chancellor, "Bill would outlaw abortion. Ohio legislation would make no exception for rape, incest or to save woman's life," Akron Beacon Journal, 2006-JUN-11, at: http://www.ohio.com/
  10. "CBR: Ohio Abortion Ban to Get Hearing on June 13th," The Mark Harrington Show, 2006-JUN-01, at: http://www.markharringtonlive.com/

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Copyright � 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-MAR-20
Latest update: 2006-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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