All eyes were on Ohio in July when news broke that a 10-year-old rape victim had been forced to travel to Indiana for an abortion due to Ohio’s six-week abortion ban. Now a new affidavit filed to challenge Ohio’s ban (currently paused until Oct. 12) shows the child wasn’t alone: There are at least two other cases of minors who were impregnated by rape being denied abortion care, according to abortion providers in the state, as well as two documented cases of pregnant cancer patients who couldn’t get abortions and thus couldn’t receive chemotherapy.
According to the affidavit, first reported by the Ohio Capital Journal, three different Ohio women with unwanted pregnancies who were denied abortion care threatened to die by suicide. There were at least three cases of pregnant people with fetal abnormalities, rendering their pregnancies nonviable being forced to remain pregnant, and a case of someone whose pregnancy had made them so sick she couldn’t get off the clinic floor.
Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the current abortion ban in 2019, but it only took effect shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The law notably doesn’t have exceptions for rape, allowing abortions only when the pregnant person’s life is in imminent danger—which is highly medically risky, dangerously arbitrary, and clearly didn’t help the aforementioned cancer patients.
For months now, we’ve witnessed the horrifying ripple effects inflicted by the fall of Roe on the health system, between a New York woman being denied medication that could cause birth defects for her chronic, debilitating pain because she was of “childbearing age,” and a Louisiana woman forced to carry a skull-less, nonviable fetus. The Kansas City Public Health System at one point stopped giving plan B to rape victims. But for many people, the case of the 10-year-old rape victim from Columbus, Ohio, stood out as particularly jarring—and it turns out this was merely the tip of the iceberg in the state.
In the affidavit, Dr. Adarsh E. Krishen, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, recounted that one minor who had been impregnated by raped had to travel to Michigan for an abortion. “This patient experienced immense trauma from the assault itself and then endured further trauma from a forensic interview alongside a physical exam to collect evidence for the ongoing police investigation,” Krishen wrote. “This trauma was further exacerbated by needing to wait over three weeks for her appointment.”
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Aeran Trick, operations manager of Women’s Med Center of Dayton, wrote that “a 16-year-old girl living in Southwestern Ohio who had become pregnant after being sexually assaulted by a family member,” like the 10-year-old, was also forced to travel to Indiana for abortion. “The local Ohio law enforcement agency—which was already involved at the time the clinic was contacted about the patient—had to drive to our Indianapolis clinic to retrieve the tissue for crime lab testing related to the sexual assault investigation,” Trick added.
Dr. Sharon Liner, medical director of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio in Cincinnati, wrote in her affidavit that a cancer patient whose chemotherapy had been paused due to her pregnancy sought and was denied abortion care, despite the Ohio law’s supposed exception for threats to the pregnant person’s life. Trick also recounted trying to help a pregnant person suffering from stage III melanoma, who sought abortion care because her pregnancy had paused her cancer treatment. Both of these women were ultimately forced to travel out of the state for care.
“If that patient couldn’t get her chemotherapy because she’s forced to continue her pregnancy, she’s not going to die in that moment, but she probably will die much sooner. Maybe significantly sooner, decades sooner,” Georgia-based abortion provider Nisha Verma told Jezebel in July, discussing one of her patients who had been diagnosed with cancer and needed an abortion so she could start chemotherapy.
According to Liner, after SB23 took effect, her clinic “had to cancel over 600 [abortion] appointments.” She continued, “We have had at least three patients threaten to commit suicide. Another patient said she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach. Another asked how much vitamin C she would need to take to terminate her pregnancy.”
However heartbreaking these stories may be, I don’t expect them to move Gov. DeWine or his ilk. After the 10-year-old rape victim’s case drew national attention, DeWine and other top Republicans attempted to cast doubt on the veracity of the story, and even threatened legal action against the Indiana doctor who provided the child with care. Other anti-abortion activists suggested there was nothing wrong with what had happened to the child, and argued we should normalize literal children impregnated by rape becoming parents.
These reactions should dispel with the myth that any amount of suffering from abortion bans will ever be “bad” enough to persuade anti-abortion politicians, who refuse to recognize pregnant people as human beings.