COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A bill that would ban most abortions in Ohio, with no exceptions for rape or incest, was on the table Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse.
Representatives held their first hearing on House Bill 598 – the Human Life Protection Act. It would outlaw abortions in Ohio contingent upon any Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to an abortion in 1973.
The Human Life Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), is the House counterpart to Senate Bill 123 – both of which are known as trigger bills, meaning they would take effect only if such a ruling comes from the Supreme Court.
“Life begins at conception and continues until natural death,” Schmidt said. “We cannot deny the unborn their natural, God-given, and constitutional right to life.”
If passed by both houses and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio would join 13 states that have passed similar “trigger” bills to outlaw all or nearly all abortions in case Roe v. Wade is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Unless a woman’s health is at risk, the bill would prohibit all abortions and charge those who perform them with a fourth-degree felony, Schmidt said. Doctors who determine an abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life must receive approval from a second physician “not professionally related to them,” according to the bill’s text.
In December, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health — a case challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The court is expected to reach a decision in the Dobbs case in June.
Larry Baum, professor emeritus in political science at Ohio State University, told NBC4 in February that it is “exceedingly likely” that the court’s 6-3 conservative majority will use the lawsuit to induce some kind of modification to existing abortion law.
“What none of us knows is how substantial that will be,” Baum said.
At the House Government Oversight Committee hearing, a point of contention between lawmakers was whether the bill sufficiently protects doctors who perform abortions where a mother’s life is at risk.
Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) said the bill only provides an affirmative defense for physicians, meaning they could be slapped with a felony charge and required to defend their decision in court if they do perform a life-saving abortion.
“We’re putting doctors in a horribly uncomfortable position where they could ask, ‘Do I need to save the life of this woman and face a felony charge?’” Galonski said.
The lack of exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest garnered concern from Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester). Brown posed a hypothetical about a 13-year-old who is raped and must carry a “felon’s fetus to term regardless of the emotional or psychological trauma,” he said.
Schmidt contended that although she is willing to revise or include amendments to the bill, unborn children that are products of rape or incest are still unborn children who deserve life.
“A shame when it happens, but an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old, to make a determination about what she’s going to do to help that life be a productive human being,” she said.
Galonski, in a statement issued after the hearing, said she was appalled by Schmidt’s comment calling a pregnancy that is the result of a rape an opportunity.
“To suggest that rape is anything but a traumatic, horrific event is insensitive and diminishes the anguish that impacts a survivor for the rest of their life,” her statement read. “Pregnancy and childbirth are often traumatic and dangerous on their own. To then force a survivor of rape to carry a pregnancy to term and go through childbirth is utterly vile and only adds to the trauma they have already suffered.”