Thanks to harsh new abortion restrictions in place in Ohio, doctors are warning that they can’t provide the best care for their patients — and sometimes, women are being forced to carry nonviable fetuses to term against the recommendations of medical professionals.
Last year, Ohio enacted several new laws that further regulate the way that doctors are allowed to practice. Abortion doctors are now required to obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals, an unnecessary requirement that is forcing clinics out of business. And doctors are prohibited from performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the fetus is nonviable; by 24 weeks, abortion is outlawed altogether.
Since the new law doesn’t adequately distinguish between elective abortions and medically necessary abortions, doctors warn that it’s forcing them to withhold critical health services from their patients. Sometimes, serious fetal abnormalities aren’t evident until women are past the legal limit for termination. Thanks to Ohio’s new law, however, doctors’ hands are tied when they encounter those situations.
Dr. Jason Melillo, an OB-GYN who does not perform elective abortions because he is religiously opposed to the procedure, told the Columbus Dispatch that he will still refer patients to abortion services if it’s medically necessary. For instance, he had a recent patient who discovered that her fetus had a fatal chromosome condition, and he recommended that she should terminate to avoid the risk of future complications. But it was too late.
“By this point she was 27 weeks. The doctors were saying they can’t do it. There wasn’t even a medical debate about it. Everyone agreed she shouldn’t deliver but were afraid they would run afoul of this law,” Melillo explained. “What if she gets a blood clot? What if she needs a cesarean section? Now you’re putting this woman through risky medical procedures for no good reason.”
“Nobody likes to end a pregnancy for a fetal problem. But it’s worse to leave a patient without medical care because doctors are afraid of violating the law,” he continued.
Later abortion procedures are very rare, but they often occur in the most heartbreaking of circumstances: Wanted pregnancies that end up going terribly wrong. In states that have enacted bans on later abortions without adequate health exceptions, doctors have repeatedly warned that cutting off access to medically necessary abortions could end up forcing women to carry nonviable pregnancies to term, risking their health and their emotional well being. These type of later-term abortion bans also disproportionately harm young, low-income women.
Nonetheless, anti-abortion lawmakers have frequently responded callously to the personal stories from these women, even going so far as to suggest that fetal abnormalities are simply the woman’s problem.
Thanks to the recent attacks on reproductive choice in Ohio, more women are being forced to cross state lines to get abortion care. The new abortion restrictions are becoming a hot-button issue in the state’s current gubernatorial race, where the presumptive Democratic candidate seems poised to attack current Gov. John Kasich’s (R) ongoing “War on Women.”