Where Ohio abortion law stands one month after Roe vs Wade was overturned

The heartbeat bill is the law of the land in Ohio.
The heartbeat bill is the law of the land in Ohio.(Laura Bowen)
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 11:40 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio. (WTAP) - It’s been about a month since Roe vs Wade was overturned. Since then, abortion law has rapidly evolved. It’s a landscape that’s been marred by confusion and legal challenges.

WTAP talked to local lawyer Robin Bozian and Attorney General Dave Yost about how abortion law has changed in Ohio.

The Heartbeat Bill is now the law of the land in Ohio. That means abortions are illegal as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can happen as early as six weeks.

Bozian said of the law, “Ohio has become one of those states that is very very restrictive.”

If you are pregnant and your fetus has a heartbeat, there are three exceptions that would make an abortion legal.

They are...

  • If a mother’s life is in danger
  • Ectopic pregnancies
  • If there’s a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant mother”

Click here to read Yost’s official explainer of exceptions.

While pregnant women have no liability under the current statute, doctors can be criminally charged, according to Yost.

Bozian is concerned fear of legal fallout will scare some doctors out of providing care, even if the procedure’s legal.

She explained, “..., and we’re going to see that I think more and more often that the primary providers or primary care providers who would ordinarily provide those kinds of things are going to be reluctant to do so. They’re going to refer them to somebody else. It may mean a delay in care, and a delay in care may mean that, for instance, you may get passed the six week mark and then you’re not going to be eligible and able to have an abortion,”

When asked about this concern, Yost responded with, “Well I would say that doctors deal with laws every day. Doctors get sued. Occasionally they get prosecuted if they break criminal statute and this is exactly the same environment that they always operate in.”

It’s not yet clear how doctors will be held accountable to the law.

Yost said, “There hasn’t been a case so, in terms of what that legal process looks like, that’s going to develop based on the facts of the case, how it’s charged, and what the defense lawyer does…,”

Pro-abortion advocates are deeply concerned about the impact Ohio law will have on young kids who get pregnant.

Bozian said, “That’s the one thing that just upsets me perhaps the most - the thought of forcing a 13 year old to have a child, who’s been raped or been the subject of incest is just mind-boggling to me.”

This concern was highlighted in a recent case in Ohio, in which a 10 year old who was raped traveled across state lines to get an abortion.

Yost has since made claims that the 10 year old did not have to leave the state.

He explained, “Well, based on what we knew at the time, the probabilities were that it would fall within one of the exceptions that I talked to you about earlier.”

When asked to clarify whether or not he meant that being a minor is considered a medical exception and, if so, if there’s a specific age cut off, Yost responded with...

“So let me...you don’t seem to be getting this. It’s an individual, case by case determination based on the individual medical file and conditions.”

Ohio faces pending legal action against the current abortion law in the state’s supreme court.

Back in 2019, years before Roe vs Wade was overturned, the Ohio legislature passed the Heartbeat Bill. However, due to the legal precedent of Roe vs Wade and Planned Parenthood vs Casey, the federal court put an injunction on the bill.

When those legal precedents were overruled in 2022, Yost successfully filed a motion to remove the injunction, bringing the bill out of the shadows and into practice as a law. This was all done on the day Roe vs Wade was overturned.

Bozian says that, while traveling out of state for an abortion isn’t illegal, not everyone has the resources to do so. She pointed out that marginalized groups will be impacted the most.

“Low income folks or folks without resources will not be able to make that kind of choice…,” she said.

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