Do you believe that abortions should be banned completely at 20 weeks of pregnancy even for victims of rape and incest and even if a woman’s life is endangered? Ohio women are facing that grim situation after Governor John Kasich signed an extreme US anti-abortion measure into law despite massive protests from Ohio women and doctors.
When beautiful dentist, Savita Halappanavar, just 31, became pregnant with her first child, she was beyond excited. Just four and a half months later, she was dead after being denied a life-saving abortion by doctors.
Terrifyingly, that could be the prospect faced by millions of Ohio women now that Gov. John Kasich has signed a new abortion ban into law today, Dec 13. Despite a huge campaign of protest, Ohio women now face, not only their loss of choice as to whether they want to continue an unintended pregnancy, but also the prospect of losing their lives like Dr. Halappanavar.
That’s because there is no exception in the law for either rape, incest or the health of the mother. Only if a woman is in immediate danger of dying will Ohio allow her to have an abortion. If a doctor gives her an abortion because he or she fears for the woman’s life, but the government disagrees, the doctor faces up to 18 months in jail
As Savita Halappanavar’s case shows, it’s not always easy for doctors to know when a woman is close enough to death before they finally intervene and perform an abortion. Savita was a perfectly healthy woman until she suffered an unexpected late miscarriage and then developed a severe sepsis infection.
She lived in Ireland, where abortion was only allowed if a woman faced imminent death, as it will be in Ohio if the pregnancy is further than 20 weeks. Savita begged her doctors to give her an abortion and save her life. The doctors at the Galway University Hospital where she lay in intensive care, turned a deaf ear. They were fearful of prosecution and refused to abort her fetus, until its heartbeat stopped on its own. By then, it was too late to save Savita.
Ohio’s Legislature passed the new 20 week abortion ban and sent it to Gov Kasich just weeks after Donald Trump was elected, hoping that with the new anti-abortion president, their law will not be overturned. They are betting that Trump will install justices in the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 law which made abortion legal in the US, believes Kellie Copeland, the Executive Director of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), Pro-Choice Ohio.
The Ohio Legislature pushed this measure through quickly and quietly as an amendment to a bill, which would improve treatment for victims of child abuse. Until now, Ohio has allowed legal abortions until 24 months in the state and those four weeks can make all the difference in finding out if a fetus is actually viable, and if a mother is facing life-threatening risks from her pregnancy.
“I recommend an ultra-sound at 20 weeks for my pregnant patients because before that time, you can’t see if the fetus has major abnormalities like parts of the brain missing, or certain internal organs missing or malformed,” explains Dr. Jhansi Reddy, an assistant professor of Clinical OBGYN at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC. “There are abnormalities that can only be seen at this point which will indicate if the baby can survive the pregnancy, or if it will only survive for days or weeks after birth,” she explains.
“It would be almost impossible for a woman to get an abortion in Ohio, if she only finds these issues out at 20 weeks,” she points out.
As well, women don’t usually develop life-threatening conditions during pregnancy until after 20 weeks. “Women with high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes or lupus, for example, can be put at grave risk or lose their lives without an abortion,” explains Dr. Reddy. Or, like Savita Halappanavar, women can develop a deathly infection in the uterus.
Ohio’s new 20 week abortion ban deliberately ignores these life- threatening risks to women. “Politicians shouldn’t be involved in a woman’s decision when she has an unintended pregnancy. This is a very personal decision for a woman to make with her family and her doctor,” asserts Iris Harvey, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
Thousands of Ohioan women and men agree and they flooded Gov. Kasich’s office with emails and phone calls, plus protestors demonstrated outside the Ohio State House, and at Kasich’s own house.
Wire hangers with pink hearts saying ‘Healthcare not hangers,’ were placed all along the fencing ringing the Ohio courthouse. FYI 80 percent of Americans think that abortion should be legal under all or some circumstances, according to a Gallup poll.
“Women have been calling (Ohio) clinics in a panic, asking if abortion is still legal ,” says Copeland from NARAL. And Ohio’s doctors are furious about this too. Both the Ohio State Medical Association representing 16,000 doctors and the Ohio section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists repping the state’s 1500 OBGYNs wrote to Governor Kasich opposing the new law, both saying that medical procedures should be left to the expertise of doctors.
‘ I don’t know of a single other medical condition that is legislated,’ points out Dr Reddy. Does a politician have a right to force you to bear a child or to risk your life?
Now,Ohio women who can afford to, will have to travel out of the state for abortions or even for emergency medical care if they, like Dr. Savita Halappanavar, terrifyingly find themselves in a dangerous situation threatening their health, or life.
Do you think this is right? Should the government be forcing women to have unwanted pregnancies, even if they are the victims of rape or incest? Should they be forced to carry even a wanted pregnancy to term, if they are risking their health or lives?
This is the fate for Ohio women today and it could be YOUR fate and the fate ofall American women if Donald Trump successfully overturns Roe v. Wade.