Republicans in charge of the state legislature already have enacted new laws narrowing abortion rights. They have included in the two-year budget plan additional restrictions, even seeking to leave abortion clinics with little choice but to close. Now 35 House Republicans want to go further. They would plant themselves between a woman and her doctor, telling physicians, in effect, how to operate their medical practices.
And if doctors do not follow legislative orders? They could face a first-degree felony charge.
Recall how Republicans campaigned in 2010, when they recaptured the House and the governor’s office. They cudgeled their opponents for the economic hard times. They would get Ohio going again, generating economic growth and new jobs. Yet they have devoted much time seeking to dictate the health choices of women.
Of course, any realistic expectation held that once in complete power at the Statehouse, Republicans would aim to please abortion opponents, a key part of their constituency. Yet go so far, intruding upon the relationship between doctor and patient, seeking to shame and bully women, and rip funds from Planned Parenthood, an organization with expertise and long bipartisan support?
What does the latest legislation propose? Among other things, it would extend the waiting period for abortions from 24 hours to 48 hours. It would require doctors to perform an ultrasound and cite “relevant features.” Doctors would have to report to patients their earnings from abortions.
In addition, doctors would be compelled to describe the ability of the fetus to feel pain and to indicate that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. As it is, the American Cancer Society reports that scientific studies have not found such a cancer link. What’s more, the research isn’t clear about when a fetus can feel pain.
In May, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a “statement of policy” about such legislation. They emphasized that “the patient-physician relationship is essential to the provision of safe and quality medical care and should be protected from unnecessary governmental intrusion.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the legality of abortion, it allowed states to set restrictions — without placing an “undue burden” on a woman. Yet such a burden is precisely what Republicans at the Statehouse seek to apply.