Ohio Senate Republicans Aim to Clarify Women’s Health Exemptions on Six-Week Abortion Ban

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said after feedback from medical professionals, Republicans in the Ohio Senate are working to clarify language on the six-week limits on  abortion.

According to Huffman, they are working to clarify definitions regarding the health and life of the mother. The new limit known as the “heartbeat bill,” prohibits most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is at about six weeks of pregnancy.

“We think we can make the heartbeat bill better by getting better definitions, things I think that weren’t really contemplated when it was passed a few years ago,” Huffman said.

Currently, the law is unenforceable as a judge in Hamilton County blocked the law in mid-September. Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has begun the appeals process, and the case will likely go to the state supreme court.

Senate Bill (SB) 23 known as the Heartbeat Bill, sponsored by Senator Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), does not include an exception for rape or incest and it only applies to intrauterine pregnancies. The bill does contain two exceptions.

The bill permits medical professionals to perform an abortion if the procedure is to prevent someone’s death or bodily impairment which the bill defines as any “medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and reversible impairment of a major bodily function.” This definition includes pre-eclampsia, “inevitable” abortion, and premature rupture of the membranes. However, it cannot be anything mental health related.

The bill also defines that if one of the above criteria is met, a medical professional has to document that the procedure is needed including the medical condition and rationale. A medical professional must include the written documentation in the medical records and the physician must keep the record for at least seven years.

The other exception is if a medical professional has determined that there is no heartbeat.

In a News 5 interview with Governor Mike DeWine, he said that he agrees that legislators need to look at the current Ohio abortion laws and make sure that they are clear.

“What I have said is that, you know, I’m pro-life… I know there’s been some criticism about the current law. So, I think we need to look at that. I think we need to make sure that the law is clear, that it tells people what can be done, what could not be done,” DeWine said.

DeWine also noted that any clarification made, needs to be something that is acceptable to Ohioans due to the fact that they can go to the ballot if they disagree with decisions made by the legislature.

Huffman said that the action taken to clarify the bill should be something everyone is amicable to but to date lawmakers have not made any decisions.

According to Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland, amendments to the law is not the solution.

“Amendments won’t prevent people from being harmed by the 6-week abortion ban. The way to halt the harm is to repeal the ban,” Copeland said.

According to Huffman, lawmakers have scheduled hearings on the medical exemption issue for the week after Thanksgiving.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Matt Huffman ” by The Ohio Senate. Background Photo “Embryo” by lunar caustic. CC BY 2.0.


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