In April, Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed a so-called “heartbeat” bill into law, which bans abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. On Tuesday, Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp did the same; all told, four states have passed draconian “heartbeat” abortion bans this year, despite similar laws in Iowa and North Dakota being found unconstitutional.
Now, some Republicans in Ohio’s statehouse are going one step further, by pushing a new bill that would prohibit private insurance plans from covering abortions, a move that reproductive rights advocates believe would also prevent insurance companies from paying for many forms of birth control, like the pill and IUDs.
“The bill states that any birth control that could act to stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus is considered an abortion,” Jaime Miracle, the deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, told the Statehouse News Bureau.
Republican John Becker, the bill’s sponsor, said that the legislation isn’t meant to target birth control. But in pushing for similar legislation in 2014, Becker likened IUDs to abortions, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch:
During testimony, Rep. John Becker, a suburban Cincinnati Republican who sponsored the bill, acknowledged that the wording can be interpreted to include birth-control pills, which he said wasn’t his intention. An amendment could be introduced to clarify that point, he said.
When it came to IUDs, which are plastic devices implanted into a woman, Becker said they should be included in the ban because they prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, meaning they can be considered an abortion.
“This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor,” Becker said.
The bill also parrots the wholly unscientific claim that ectopic pregnancies can be saved through “replanting” the fertilized egg. Specifically, it states that “a procedure for an ectopic pregnancy that is intended to replant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus” is not included in its abortion ban, which implies that people who choose to terminate their highly dangerous ectopic pregnancies would be included in the ban.
As NARAL’s Miracle noted, “That doesn’t exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can’t just re-implant. It’s not a medical thing.” (As one reproductive health website states, “When discovered, ectopic pregnancies must be terminated. Unfortunately, today’s medical sciences cannot yet save the pregnancy by removing it from the fallopian tube and transplanting it into the uterus.”)
It’s unclear how likely this new bill is to pass the Ohio legislature, though Becker has said that he is emboldened by the recent passage of the “heartbeat” bill. As for the fate of that law, which is slated to take effect in July, the ACLU of Ohio has stated it already plans on challenging the abortion ban in the courts.
The flurry of anti-abortion legislation introduced and passed in recent years by Republican-led state legislatures points to the increasing influence of more radical anti-abortion activists among the Republican Party, who have championed ever more restrictive laws. Whether or not a “heartbeat” abortion ban makes its way to the Supreme Court, the future that anti-abortion activists wish to see is clear. As Dr. Catherine Romanos, an abortion provider in Ohio and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Vox of the ban, “I think people are already confused. I worry that there are patients that heard about the bans passing and now just aren’t seeking care that they otherwise would seek because they think abortion is illegal already.”
And last week, it was reported in Ohio that a 26-year-old man, Juan Leon-Gomez, had raped an 11-year-old girl, and that she was now pregnant. As one writer noted, “Ohio’s new ‘heartbeat bill’ means that the 11-year-old girl will likely be forced to carry the child to birth, regardless of the fact that she was raped.”