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Antiabortion-Rights Group: Ohio Lawmakers To Introduce 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill

January 28, 2015 — Ohio Right to Life on Tuesday announced that lawmakers in the Republican-led General Assembly will soon introduce legislation to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Under a 2011 law (HB 78), Ohio bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks (Borchardt, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/27). The law states that a physician cannot perform an abortion between 20 weeks and 24 weeks unless a woman's life is at risk or the physician has determined that the fetus cannot survive outside the womb (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/21/11). A fetus typically is not considered viable until about 24 weeks (Bischoff, Dayton Daily News, 1/27).

New Bill Details

The planned legislation is expected to state that physicians could face felony changes and potentially lose their medical licenses if they perform an abortion at 20 weeks or after, except when the procedure is needed to save a woman's life, according to the Plain Dealer (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/27).

The 20-week legislation is based on the disputed notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/12).

Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, did not say who would sponsor the bill, according to the Plain Dealer.

Comments, Reaction

Gonidakis said that the bill will be "priority legislation" for his group. He added that the measure is meant to be a challenge to the viability standard set by the Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade decision.

Meanwhile, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the bill would be unconstitutional and "force more women who need abortion care to leave the state, to leave the care of the doctors they have here in Ohio, and to work with a doctor in another state if they can get there -- if their health situation and insurance allows that. And to families that have been through this, it's unthinkable that politicians would involve themselves in a deeply personal, medical decision" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/27).

She added, "Sadly, some pregnancies don't go as planned, resulting in devastating complications. In those cases women should be able to consult with their doctors and make the best decision for their family" (Dayton Daily News, 1/27).