A bill under consideration in Ohio’s lame-duck session has state lawmakers considering a total ban on abortion, making terminating a pregnancy a crime and punishable through criminal proceedings.
WOSU, a local radio network, reported that the bill was first proposed in March and would extend the definition of a “person” under the state criminal code to include an “unborn human”, created at the moment of fertilization.
The HB 565 bill also expands the definition of abortion to include “any method, including, but not limited to, chemical methods, medical methods, and surgical methods”, prompting concerns over whether an unintended pregnancy termination or miscarriage could fall under this umbrella definition.
The bill also fails to name any extenuating circumstances under which abortion would be legal, including rape or in cases where the foetus is endangering the life of the mother.
In its current form, the Ohio bill could open the door for mothers who abort their pregnancies to face murder charges in the state. In Ohio, the punishment for murder includes life imprisonment or the death penalty.
The law is the latest move in a national trend whereby state legislatures are increasingly criminalizing the actions of pregnant women during their pregnancy. Tenessee, for example, recently introduced criminal penalties for mothers whose children show signs of narcotics exposure after birth.
The trend has received criticism from human rights groups including Amnesty International. A policy advisor for Amnesty International and author of the report Criminalizing Pregnancy: Policing Pregnant Women Who Use Drugs in the USA, Carrie Eisert said in a statement, “heavy-handed policing of pregnant women’s behavior is shattering patient trust in health services with devastating consequences”.
WOSU predicts that the bill will not secure enough votes to pass into legislature. However, the very consideration of a bill of this magnitude is a strong indication of the current political climate in Ohio, and elsewhere in the United States where ‘pro-life’ policies are seeping into state legislature.
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Oliver is a UK-born freelance writer and journalist based in Boston. He is a self-confessed politics junkie with a passion for foreign and environmental policy. His work has been featured on Open Democracy, International Policy Digest, and the London Economic. He was a regular contributor for ASEAN Today.