Ohio's Gargantuan Anti-Abortion Bill Is Anti-Doctor, Anti-Patient, and Beyond

In a year when abortion restrictions have been getting harsher and harsher from the state houses to the U.S. House of Representatives, the so-called Ultrasound Access Act might be the biggest and baddest piece of anti-abortion legislation to make its way through the laboratories of democracy yet.

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It doubles the waiting period for a wealth of "misinformation." It makes ultrasounds mandatory, even for rape victims. It foces doctors to discuss with their patients a disputed study linking abortion to breast cancer, to introduce them to the myths of "fetal pain," to and tell them how much money they'd lose if they didn't have to perform abortions. Doctors hate it. Republican lawmakers love it. In a year when abortion restrictions have been getting harsher and harsher from the state houses to the U.S. House of Representatives, the so-called Ultrasound Access Act might be the biggest and baddest piece of anti-abortion legislation to make its way through the laboratories of democracy yet.

The bill, HB 200, is currently sitting with the Ohio's House of Representatives. It's the brainchild of state Rep. Ron Hood (right) and 34 of his co-sponsors — 32 men and two women, all Republicans — and Hood says it would "protect mothers," but none of this is sitting easy with local OB-GYNs. "This bill essentially mandates misinformation," one doctor said at a House committee meeting on Wednesday. "This bill would certainly compromise our ability to provide care," said another.

And yet, Hood said at the same hearing: "There are far too many stories of mothers under the negligent care of abortionists eager to perform abortions on mothers without even confirming a woman's pregnancy." In order to combat the, uh, "eagerness of abortions," Hood and his cohorts have proposed that in cases where abortion isn't a medical emergency, doctors and patients will have to meet the following prerequisites, which are lengthy — and jaw-dropping in their detail:

The 48-hour waiting period As The Huffington Post's Laura Bassett explains, the bill would double Ohio's mandatory hold-off from 24 hours, meaning that it gives more women time to think about the process. But the bill also stipulates that in that 48-hour window, the physician performing the procedure would need to introduce women to various pieces of information and that "misinformation," which we've outlined below....

Doctors would have to:

  • Explain risks associated with the abortion procedure. HB 200 specifically includes risk of infection, hemorrhage, cervical or uterine perforation and infertility. 
  • Explain that abortions carry increased risk of breast cancer. That risk is not clear and has been scientifically disputed. "Both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Cancer Society say no such link exists," reports The Columbus Dispatch. According to the website of the Cancer Society, "Linking these topics creates a great deal of emotion and debate. But scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer."
  • Provide a conflict-of-interest disclaimer. Indeed, doctors would have to tell a patient that they're making money from abortions — and exactly how much. The disclaimer must also include "a statement concerning the monetary loss to the physician or facility that would result from the woman's decision to carry the woman's pregnancy to term," according to the bill. Meaning, the bill's sponsors want to make it very clear that doctors are making money off the procedure... like they do with all medical procedures. What's more, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, "Doctors who do not adhere to the new rules would be subject to a first-degree felony charge and a fine of up to $1 million."
  • Perform an ultrasound. And if requested, provide the a clear picture of the fetus. 
  • Explain "all relevant features" of the ultrasound, "including an audible heartbeat, if present."
  • Explain fetal pain, even if it may not be there — even if it's impossible to exist until later. The bill states that the physician must "[d]escribe the development of nerve endings of the embryo or fetus and the ability of the embryo or fetus to feel pain at each stage of development." But according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ,which bases their judgment of The Journal of the American Medical Association's 2005 study, fetal perception of pain is unlikely until the third trimester. Ohio is one of 41 states with a post-viability abortion ban (except in cases of health of the mother), so this point would be pointless, since these prerequisites only apply to people without that emergency exception, who are essentially banned from abortions. But the bill seems to want to use other findings of fetal pain, like the disputed study cited by the fetal-pain legislation currently making its very controversial rounds in Washington, which fueled the conservative push for a nation-wide ban on abortions after 20 weeks.
  • Live within the newly defined limits of "medical emergency" to claim a waiver. From Wednesday's testimony, per the Plain-Dealer:

"This bill changes the definition of 'medical emergency' from a condition that would present a serious risk to a woman's health to one that would result in a woman's death," said Dr. Jason Melillo, who is also a physician at Kingsdale. "It may sound like a small distinction but it is an incredibly important one. In other words, how sick is sick enough?

"When physicians hesitate, sometimes people get hurt. This bill will cause potential hesitation even in emergency situations where 48 hours can very literally mean the difference between life and death."

Patients will have to:

  • Receive an ultrasound.
  • Listen to a "verbal description of all relevant features of the ultrasound." The bill says there's nothing that "prohibits a pregnant woman from refusing to listen to the sounds detected by a fetal heart monitor or from refusing to view the images displayed by the obstetric ultrasound examination." But the bill also doesn't specify whether a woman can request not to hear the verbal description that would now be required by the doctor.

The full bill is here, but you can see that these state representatives want to make obtaining and performing abortions very difficult for both the patient and the doctor. Think about it: Not only would doctors have to awkwardly tell you how much your abortion means to them financially and how much they make off procedures — a move that changes the relationship between patients and doctors — but the bill would also make rape victims be subject to ultrasounds, since the only exception to the requirements are abortions where there is a threat to the mother's life, and since the emergency waiver rules have been defined down.

"I've never seen anything like this bill before," Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told HuffPo. That includes the 20-week abortion bill, designed to chip away at Roe vs. Wade, which one half of the United States Congress passed in a 228-196 vote on Tuesday. The Ohio bill awaits a vote from 99 state representatives — 35 of whom have already sponsored it. If you thought North Dakota and Arkansas and Kansas and Alabama amounted to a national crackdown movement on abortion from the state legislatures all the way up to Capitol Hill, it appears that you ain't seen nothing yet.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.