Ohio Legislature Crafting Total Abortion Ban With Plans to Sidestep Local Prosecutors

O'Malley's vow not to criminalize personal medical decisions could be for naught

Ohio Legislature Crafting Total Abortion Ban With Plans to Sidestep Local Prosecutors
Prosecutor Mike O'Malley

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported this week that the Ohio legislature is working to craft a total abortion ban, stricter even than the so-called "heartbeat" ban currently in effect.

The state's current ban, which Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost greenlit hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected. That occurs at roughly six weeks into gestation, before many people even know they're pregnant.

But in the Ohio legislature, where pregnancies resulting from rape are regarded as "opportunities," a six-week ban is nowhere near Draconian enough. Only a total ban will do.

According to the Enquirer's reporting, legislators plan to introduce the bill shortly after the November election with enough time for Gov. Mike DeWine to sign it into law even if he were to lose to Democratic challenger Nan Whaley.

Lawmakers and lobbyists are now "hammering out" language that would make provisions for doctors who perform abortions to save a patient's life. Under the proposed ban, abortion providers would be guilty of a fifth-degree felony.

The bill is also evidently anticipating the non-cooperation of local prosecutors. Cuyahoga County's Mike O'Malley, for example, signed onto a national letter earlier this week vowing not to use his office's resources to criminalize individual medical decisions.

But the state is prepared to work around the likes of O'Malley. Mike Gonidakis, President of Ohio Right to Life, told the Enquirer that "the Attorney General or another county prosecutor" would likely take up cases when local prosecutors were unwilling.

The story notes grimly that while Democrats at the statehouse will "put out all the stops" to prevent this Republican course of action, they simply don't have the numbers to prevent a total ban.

In the meantime, the ACLU of Ohio and Planned Parenthood, alongside a number of the state's abortion providers, filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday seeking to block the six-week abortion ban.

“This sweeping measure [the six-week ban], which prevents nearly every pregnant person from accessing essential care, is blatantly unconstitutional under Ohio’s state constitution which has broad protections for individual liberties," said the ACLU's Legal Director, Freda Levenson, in a statement. "We ask the Ohio Supreme Court to stop enforcement of Senate Bill 23. Absent action from the court, many Ohioans will be forced to give birth against their will, many will have illegal or dangerous abortions, and some will die. People of color and low-income communities, who comprise the majority of patients seeking abortions, will be disproportionately impacted."

Similar lawsuits would likely arrive if the state were to enact even stricter measures. 

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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