In the video player above, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks on Issue 1's passage.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Days after Ohio decisively voted to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution, Democratic lawmakers hope to repeal laws that may threaten the realization of that right.
Ohio has more than 30 laws restricting access to abortion, from the six-week ban to a 24-hour waiting requirement to mandatory hospital transfer agreements for providers. Some, like multiple pre-viability bans on the procedure, will not be able to stand up to the abortion amendment. At a news conference recently, Democratic physicians introducing the Reproductive Care Act said they don’t want to leave anything to chance.
“Our focus is making sure women have access to health care and making sure the constitutional right to make their own reproductive decisions is a reality,” said Rep. Beth Liston (Dublin), a pediatrician and sponsor of the Reproductive Care Act.
Tuesday’s passage of Issue 1 will mean, come Dec. 7, that restrictions on abortion before viability – as determined by an individual’s physician – violate the Ohio Constitution. Any regulations on the procedure would have to be proven to promote the health of the pregnant person in the least restrictive way and based on evidence-based standards of care.
Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin), who has practiced as an OB-GYN in Ohio for more than 30 years, said many existing abortion laws do not promote the health and safety of the pregnant person but rather serve as barriers to care. The Reproductive Care Act will repeal some of those laws, mainly the six-week ban, the 20-week viability ban, a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a person can undergo an abortion, and requirements for abortion providers to enter agreements with or have admitting privileges at hospitals should complications occur.
The Reproductive Care Act will also increase privacy protections for patients and prevent employers from discriminating against a person based on their reproductive decisions.
Transfer agreements, which can be waived under Ohio law if the provider partners with a physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital within 25 miles, have meant that many places across the state, particularly rural counties, cannot house abortion providers. Bans on public hospitals entering into such agreements further restrict where clinics can set up.
They’re simply not necessary, Somani said.
“We know that abortion is safer than pregnancy,” Somani said. “We also know that if someone is having a complication, generally the squad will take them to the closest hospital, or they will go to the closest hospital themselves.”
Similarly, Somani said the 24-hour mandatory waiting period between an abortion patient’s first contact with a physician and the procedure itself is also unnecessary and does not improve care outcomes.
“When women make up their mind, they don’t need another 24 hours. They don’t need two visits,” she said.
Although the bill has yet to be introduced, Somani and Liston said it will not eliminate the requirement that minors get parental consent to undergo abortions. In her experience as an OB-GYN, Somani said, parental consent is a long-established requirement for many aspects of minors’ health care. Parental consent requirements, including Ohio’s own law, have also stood up in court.
The physician lawmakers emphasized that the Reproductive Care Act is the beginning of a long process of ensuring that Ohio’s laws align with the constitutional right to abortion. Their announcement of the bill came after more than two dozen Republican state representatives signed a letter pledging to do everything in their power to prevent the repeal of Ohio’s abortion restrictions.
Hours after the Democratic lawmakers' news conference, Republican legislators threatened to introduce legislation to strip the state's high court of its jurisdiction to hear constitutional challenges related to the abortion amendment.
In the coming months, the Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether a block on the state’s six-week ban can remain in effect while its constitutionality is challenged in court. A challenge under the abortion amendment would all but ensure the six-week ban’s demise – but that’s a process that can take months or years to finalize. Liston said repealing legislation instead of waiting for courts to strike it down is crucial to increasing access to abortion and other reproductive health services.
“Ohioans shouldn’t have to go to court to exercise a constitutional right,” Liston said.