COLUMBUS- The Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus (OBMHC) issued a statement following the news of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that indicates the court’s conservative majority intends to overturn Roe v. Wade. The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, which will likely be this summer.
The decision, if made official, would immediately repeal the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and would allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. With anti-abortion legislation like House Bill (HB) 598 pushing its way through the Ohio legislature, abortion access in Ohio is in grave danger.
“Although there has not yet been an official, final decision to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the leaked documents that have been circulating in the public indicates a possible, harsh reversal of an unprecedented freedom!” said Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), co-chair of the OBMHC. “Attacks on reproductive rights in Ohio, through legislation like HB 598 and SB 157, are not about protecting our citizens, they are about control and power. If Republicans really want to keep Ohioans healthy and safe, they should be focusing on reducing maternal mortality, increasing access to healthcare and contraceptives, and paid family leave.”
HB 598, introduced by Rep. Jean Schmidt, is an abortion “trigger” ban that would that would completely eliminate access to abortion in Ohio with no exceptions should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. HB 598 had its first committee hearing last Wednesday, during which the bill sponsor called pregnancy after rape “an opportunity” for women. If passed, HB 598 would make Ohio one of the most hostile states towards abortion in the nation.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, women in the United States will certainly suffer, especially women of color. Some would even argue that the promise of Roe v. Wade has never been fully realized for women of color. Minority women are more likely to live in states with the most restrictive abortion laws and are also more likely to experience barriers to abortion and other reproductive and maternal health services, including contraception, maternity care, and screenings for reproductive cancers. In almost every aspect of reproductive health, women of color have poorer health outcomes than white women. In Ohio, Black women died at a rate more than two and a half times that of white women, according to the 2019 Ohio Department of Health Report on Pregnancy-Associated Deaths.
The racial and socioeconomic disparities in maternal and infant health and mortality will only continue to grow if Roe v. Wade is repealed and the attacks on reproductive justice in Ohio are realized. Ohioans believe in the freedom and personal responsibility to leave the important decisions about when, where and how to access healthcare to individuals. Instead of spending time on extreme anti-abortion legislation that is dangerous and divisive, House Democrats are prioritizing bills that strengthen women and families, grow our economy and create better lives and brighter futures for all Ohioans.