U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade; Abortion Still Legal in Ohio, For Now

Two bills in the Ohio legislature could limit or eliminate access to abortion care

click to enlarge U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade; Abortion Still Legal in Ohio, For Now
Photo by Emanuel Wallace

In a landmark decision on June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the federal protection of a patient's right to decide to terminate a pregnancy.

In the decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel Alito follows the same language and logic written in the leaked draft opinion from May.

Alito, part of a right-leaning court, writes that the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly spell out the right to an abortion, an unenumerated right. The decision in Dobbs reverses a nearly 50-year-old right granted by Roe v. Wade.

Justices Sonia Sotomayer, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer dissented.

Abortion is currently legal in Ohio until 20 weeks gestation, meaning 20 weeks after the point of fertilization, or 22 weeks after the patient’s last menstrual period. But there are laws on the books that could severely limit access to abortions going forward. The 2019 “Heartbeat Bill” passed by the Ohio legislature would limit a patient’s right to terminate a pregnancy after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, about six weeks into a pregnancy before many people know they are pregnant.

Attorney General David Yost would need to file a request with a federal judge to lift the block on this bill, but there are other bills Ohio Republicans could prioritize. House Bill 598, which is poised to pass through the legislature, would eliminate access to abortion care almost entirely in the state. HB598 would only permit an abortion in narrow medical cases, offering loose language that makes medical exemptions hazy. Multiple physicians would need to determine the procedure is “necessary to prevent the pregnant individual’s death or a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” Gov. Mike DeWine has said he would sign off on the legislation.

Until Ohio politicians can decide which bill they will put their efforts into right now, abortion can still be accessed in Ohio until 20 weeks gestation, either via medical or surgical methods. Most abortion treatments in Ohio – about 47% –were carried out using Mifepristone in 2020, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health. The number of patients receiving surgical abortion care has gone down while medical abortion care – a combination of pills – has seen a steep increase. In 2015, only 4% of patients were prescribed medical abortions.

Iris Harvey, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, pushed back against the decision in a statement released June 24. Harvey said the medical care provider will continue to serve their patients.

“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives,” Harvey says. “This dangerous and chilling decision can have devastating consequences in Ohio, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant. Nevertheless, you can still seek an abortion in Ohio today. Our patients have and will remain our highest priority.”

Additional rights that revolve around privacy and bodily autonomy could be in jeopardy, experts say.
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