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Gov. DeWine signs ‘born alive’ bill that threatens to close 2 SW Ohio abortion clinics

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 2:17 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (Cincinnati Enquirer) - Gov. Mike DeWine signed another restriction on abortion access in Ohio Wednesday – this time threatening two Southwest Ohio clinics and creating a felony charge for doctors who don’t fill out certain paperwork, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Republican governor has a record of supporting legislation that adds barriers to people seeking abortions in Ohio. In April 2019, he signed the so-called “heartbeat bill,” which would have banned abortion as early as six weeks gestation. That law is on hold because of a federal lawsuit.

“Gov. DeWine and Ohio Republican legislators have been courageous advocates for the most vulnerable among us, the unborn,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik said in a statement.

The latest proposal, Senate Bill 157, is called the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act” by supporters. Doctors would need to care for the health and life of an infant born alive after a botched abortion. Physicians would also have to fill out a “child survival form” or face a third-degree felony.

It’s not clear how often this scenario occurs because Ohio already bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation and the most premature infant to survive did so after 21 weeks and one day. Proponents of the change say it could save lives.

“Ohio Right to Life applauds Gov. DeWine and our overwhelmingly pro-life legislature for ensuring that all Ohioans receive life-saving treatment,” president Mike Gonidakis said in a statement. “No baby, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their birth, should be left alone to die.”

Opponents of the bill worry that the new requirements will force families of children born perilously premature to watch doctors try to save infants rather than enjoy their last moments in peace.

“The bill’s purpose is to stigmatize essential health care, criminalize doctors, and eliminate abortion access,” said Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, vice president of government affairs and public advocacy for Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley, called on DeWine to veto the bill. But DeWine ultimately signed it into law.

New law threatens 2 abortion clinics

Changes included by the Ohio Senate would add hurdles for two Southwest Ohio abortion clinics: Women’s Med in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in Mount Auburn.

Both clinics operate under a variance – an exception to state law that requires all abortion clinics to partner with a local, private university in case of an emergency. Instead, these clinics partner with several doctors.

But a change in Senate Bill 157 would prohibit those doctors from teaching at state-funded hospitals and medical schools. That’s a problem for Women’s Med, whose doctors have ties to Wright State Physicians and teach at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine.

It could be a problem for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, too, but their doctors’ ties are less clear.

“Stripping abortion care from Southwest Ohio will cause havoc that disproportionately impacts our communities,” said Kersha Deibel, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region. “Abortion is still legal in Ohio. This isn’t the end, and we will continue to fight.”

Advocates for abortion access could challenge this new law in court, as they have most abortion restrictions imposed in Ohio.

The future of abortion access is up in the air as the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a Mississippi ban. What the court decides could have far-reaching effects on the procedure across the country. Ohio lawmakers are working on a trigger law that would ban all abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“We now turn our collective efforts to our trigger legislation which will ensure Ohio becomes abortion-free when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in 2022,” Gonidakis said.

If the Ohio law takes effect in 90 days, the Ohio Department of Health could start the process of rescinding the abortion clinics’ variances, which could cause them to halt surgical abortions or close entirely.

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