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Ohio Looks to Replicate Texas's Extreme Abortion Ban

Published By The Cut on November 4, 2021
Jena Powell In The News

Pretty much as soon as Texas enacted its vigilante abortion ban, other conservative states weighed their own versions: Certain Florida Republicans admitted to working on a similar six-week ban, while lawmakers in South Carolina were said to be doing the same. But the first state to debut its handiwork is Ohio, which managed to go further, even, than Texas, attempting to ban the procedure outright using the same bounty-hunting mechanism.

Like Texas’s S.B. 8, Ohio’s proposed House Bill 480 incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone who performs or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” for a minimum of $10,000. (In Ohio, that would include anyone involved in the sale or procurement of instruments, medicine, and drugs used in the procedure.) Like S.B. 8, it does not make exceptions for incest or rape. But unlike S.B. 8 — which makes terminating illegal after a “heartbeat” can be detected via ultrasound, around six weeks into a pregnancy (the fetal cardiac activity this type of legislation references is not actually a heartbeat, as embryos don’t have hearts) — it does not attempt to set any deadline on legal abortion in the state. Instead, H.B. 480 outlaws all abortion in Ohio, full stop.

“It’s an egregious assault on women, a dangerous attack on healthcare rights and an embarrassment for our state. Ohio Republicans want to control women, but we won’t be silent,” Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes said of the bill, according to “Criminalizing care will disproportionately impact women of color, nonbinary people and those already at a disadvantage in our health and criminal justice system. … Once again, Republicans are showing that the everyday needs of Ohioans are less important than scoring political points, likes and retweets.”

H.B. 480, or the “2363 Act” — named for the number of abortions supposedly performed daily in the U.S., according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, though based on the most recent data, this number seems inflated — counts 33 Republicans as co-sponsors, more than half of the party’s 64-35 majority in the House. Their bill would nominally block abusers from suing abortion patients who became pregnant as a result of rape or other sexual violence — though given how difficult it is for victims to prove to law enforcement that either of those crimes occurred, if they opt to report at all, it’s a flimsy protection at best. And though it’s extreme even by Ohio standards (a state that enacted a six-week ban in 2019, knowing it would immediately be blocked), it’s not unexpected: Anti-abortion lobbyists shop the same legal templates around statehouses across the country, meaning it was only ever a matter of time before other legislatures jumped on the Texas bandwagon.

Meanwhile, S.B. 8 came up for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week, after the Department of Justice sued Texas for a flagrant violation of federal law. Under Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal up until viability, around 23 weeks (and potentially longer, if needed to protect the patient’s life or health). At present, the bench looks poised to rule in favor of abortion providers, its conservative members seemingly concerned about the implications of vigilante enforcement for, say, gun rights. Still, even though S.B. 8 hasn’t played out exactly the way abortion opponents planned, the end result remains the same: Right now, abortion access is basically nonexistent in Texas.

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