Ohio’s state legislature is considering a new bill promising criminal penalties for abortion. Like other extreme anti-abortion bills we have seen recently, this one, which threatens the death penalty in some cases, is misogynistic, intrusive, and draconian. But it manages to take things a cruel and mind-boggling step further. If the bill becomes law, then Ohio will require doctors to pull off the impossible or face imprisonment.
Ohio HB 413 specifically addresses the situation of an ectopic pregnancy, which is when an embryo gets implanted outside the uterus, such as in the Fallopian tubes. Not only is an ectopic pregnancy not viable, but it places the mother’s life at great risk from serious hemorrhaging. Of course, a procedure that would relocate an ectopic pregnancy to the uterus would be an obvious solution. The problem is, until such a procedure exists, doctors simply cannot perform it.
This statement may seem logical and apolitical, but somehow the backers of HB 413 do not appear to grasp it. Section 2904.35 of the bill sets out a path for physicians to follow in order to avoid criminal prosecution, civil liability, and disciplinary action in the face of a violation. The final part of this path requires doctors to take “all possible steps to preserve the life of the unborn child, while preserving the life of the woman.” So far, this appears to be a vague expression of a duty to promote life whenever feasible.
The bill’s drafters could have quit while they were behind. Instead, they went off the rails by explaining in a second sentence that “all possible steps” specifically includes “attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.” This means that doctors who discover an ectopic pregnancy will get jailed—merely because the medical solution that the law would require them to perform does not exist.
There are two things that may be going on here, and both are unsettling. The first is that the lawmakers behind HB 413 are so shockingly ignorant as to be wholly unqualified to draft legislation that is rooted in reality, regardless of their politics. The second is that these legislators know exactly what they are doing and don’t care. Instead, what matters most to them is producing yet another extreme anti-abortion bill in the hope it will be the winning ticket for getting the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Either way, this latest assault on women’s rights, the medical profession, and logic is another sobering reminder of why America needs a thunderous blue wave in 2020.