Earlier this week Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the controversial Heartbeat Bill. The law, which will take effect in 90 days unless blocked by a federal judge, is one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. It only allows abortions to be performed up until a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This is normally around 5-6 weeks for most women after which terminating the pregnancy is no longer an option.
I wrote a piece several months ago about the Heartbeat Bill when it was passed by both the Ohio Senate and House and went to Governor John Kasich, who vetoed it. In the piece, I detailed all of the things wrong with the proposed bill.
From the fact that most women don't even know they're pregnant at 5-6 weeks, to the fact that the bill makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
So here's the reality that Ohio women will face if this law isn't blocked by federal courts within the next three months:
Women who are raped and don't know they're pregnant until after the 6-week mark will be unable to get an abortion. Not only will they have survived the trauma of being raped, but now they'll be faced with the task of carrying that child to term whether they want to or not.
Now don't get me wrong, many rape victims have gone on to carry those children and keep and raise them with no issues, and many say they'd do it again, but that's not the case for all women who are victims of sexual violence. At least in the past, they've been able to choose how they want to proceed, choose the best way for them to heal, after an experience as traumatizing as rape. But under this new law, that choice is taken from them if they happen to discover their pregnancy too late.
That teenage girl who sat through an abstinence-only sex education course, who used a condom and was on birth-control like she was told, who fell into the 1% of birth control ineffectiveness. Who cannot, under any circumstances, afford to provide the life a child deserves. She'll be forced to carry that child and try to raise it with the little-to-no means she possesses, or she'll have to go through the emotionally scarring process of adoption, potentially adding to the thousands of children nationwide in foster care.
Maybe these situations don't move you. Maybe you're celebrating the Heartbeat Bill as part of the crowd that says "Oh well, at least the child will be alive."
Let me share another piece of information with you.
This bill, this law, this thoughtless piece of legislation does not guarantee a decrease in the number of abortions. It does nothing to ensure that abortions will not happen.
The ONLY thing this law will guarantee is that the health and safety of every Ohio woman are put at risk. The ONLY thing this law will do is ensure that women will put themselves in danger in order to obtain an abortion that could have previously been done safely.
It's absurd to me that people view criminalizing abortion any differently than criminalizing drugs or prostitution.
Marijuana is illegal. At a federal level. Yet I can name over 20 places on my college campus alone where it can be readily available. If people want marijuana, they can get it, despite its legal status.
Prostitution is illegal. But on street corners in every major city, you'll find women doing what they can to put food on the table, including prostitution.
The same goes for other drugs, immigration, underage drinking, etc. Illegal does not mean unobtainable. And in this case, that distinction could cost a woman her life.
If a woman wants an abortion, she won't wait for legal means.
She won't seek out a licensed medical professional who can ensure that the procedure is done safely. Illegality forces women to take matters into their own hands, no matter how unsafe or risky it is. Illegality disenfranchises the poorest groups of women by forcing them to find harmful, sometimes fatal alternatives in order to terminate a pregnancy.
In parts of the world where abortion is illegal and inaccessible, botched abortions account for 30,000 maternal deaths each year, and almost half of all abortions performed worldwide (about 45%) are done so in unsafe, potentially life-threatening situations because of restrictions and bans like this one.
Back-alley, dangerous abortions were a very real thing before Roe v. Wade, and they are still a reality for some women who have little-to-no access to safe abortion services. And they will become more common in Ohio under this Heartbeat Bill. People cringe at the mention of coathangers and stomach-ulcer-inducing drugs but the truth is that those things are all too common, even in the U.S., where abortion has been a right for women since 1973.
The Heartbeat Bill will not reduce the number of abortions. It will only reduce the number of LEGAL abortions. It will, however, increase the number of botched-abortion related injuries and the number of maternal deaths in the United States.
Some proponents of this bill, like Governor DeWine, claim that the foundation behind this law is "pro-life."
But if the mindset behind this was pro-life, they would be considering the lives of thousands of women that this law could harm.
They'd first address the lives of the thousands of children on the streets and in overflowing foster homes.
They'd turn their attention to the lives of students receiving abstinence-only sex ed.
They'd be making contraceptives more accessible, more readily available, and more understood by America's youth.
Before installing a law that outlaws abortion before a woman even knows she's carrying, a law that makes zero exceptions for victims of rape, lawmakers should address the ways in which to improve the lives of women and children who are already here and already suffering.