Testifying against a sweeping new anti-abortion measure recently introduced by Ohio Republicans, three women’s health experts warned that the legislation represents a dangerous overreach into their medical practice. The doctors explained that HB 200 would force them to lie to their patients, and could potentially put women’s lives at risk.
“I’m very worried about the detrimental and potentially disastrous effects of this legislation, should it pass,” Dr. Jason Melillo, a physician with Kingsdale Gynecologic Associates and a member of Doctors for Common Sense in Medical Laws, told a House committee on Wednesday. “This bill essentially mandates misinformation.”
Melillo is referring to a provision in HB 200 that would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions about the scientifically disputed link between abortion and breast cancer, as well as the widely debunked theory that fetuses can feel pain in the womb before the third trimester of pregnancy.
But that’s not the only part of the omnibus anti-abortion legislation that doctors are worried about navigating. Melillo and his fellow medical professionals also expressed concern about the fact that HB 200 would extend the waiting period for abortion services, requiring women to wait a full 48 hours before being able to continue with the procedure — and eliminating the option to bypass that two-day waiting period in cases of medical emergencies.
“As written, this could potentially lead to the death of a patient from something that is preventable,” Melillo pointed out. “Unfortunately, there are complications that can arise where desired pregnancies can suddenly become a threat to a woman’s life. Should we as physicians be forced to stand by while a woman gets sicker and sicker until she is literally near death’s door before we are allowed to intervene?”
But HB 200 would, in fact, force doctors to make that difficult choice. Under the proposed legislation, doctors who violate any of its provisions could face a felony charge and up to a $1 million dollar fine. As Melillo put it, he and his colleagues would have to decide between saving a woman’s life or going to jail.
In El Salvador, that type of situation played out just a few weeks ago, when a dying woman sought to terminate a pregnancy under her country’s stringent abortion ban. A team of doctors all agreed that Beatriz needed an abortion to save her life, but they could not give her that critical medical care without facing serious legal punishment. Even though the access to legal abortion remains a constitutionally protected right in the United States, while El Salvador operates under a total abortion ban, the mounting pile of state-level restrictions to police the medical procedure don’t always leave much room for difference.
A previous version of this post referred to the physician testifying against HB 200 as Dr. Jason Milillo. His last name is actually spelled Melillo.