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Monday, March 26, 2018

An Ohio Bill Would Ban All Abortions. It’s Part of a Bigger Plan. - The New York Times

By The Editorial Board, March 26th, 2018

"While Donald Trump once said he was “very pro-choice,” since the start of his presidential campaign his stance on abortion has been consistent: It should be banned, no matter the consequences to women. At times, he has even veered to the right of the mainstream anti-abortion movement, as when he said during a primary season town hall event that women who seek abortions should face “some form of punishment.” Most anti-abortion politicians profess to want to protect women, even when they pass laws that harm them.

Now legislators in one state want Mr. Trump’s cruel vision to become reality. Ohio lawmakers have proposed legislation to ban all abortions, period, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest or to save a woman’s life.

Carrying to term a pregnancy against one’s will is punishment enough — in fact, it can amount to torture, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council. But the Ohio bill would not only cut off access to the procedure, it would also open the door to criminal charges against both abortion providers and women seeking the procedure. One of the Republican co-sponsors of the legislation, State Representative Ron Hood, said it would be up to prosecutors to decide whether to charge a woman or a doctor, and what those charges would be. But they could be severe. Under the bill, an “unborn human” would be considered a person under state criminal homicide statutes. Thus, a prosecutor could decide to charge a woman who ended a pregnancy with murder. In Ohio, murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

How’s that for pro-life?

If this all sounds legally unsound, that’s because it is. The Ohio bill is “blatantly unconstitutional,” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, which has challenged anti-abortion laws in the state. “This isn’t a hard one.”

That’s because the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal up to the point of fetal viability, which has shifted over time due to medical advancements in treating premature babies, but now occurs at about 24 weeks of pregnancy. Any ban on abortion before that time — say, at 15 weeks, as would be the case under a law that was passed and legally blocked in Mississippi last week — is generally considered unconstitutional.

This rash of radically unconstitutional bills is appearing by design. The anti-abortion movement has been trying to pass pre-viability abortion bans, like the Ohio bill, hoping that efforts to overturn them would lead to a challenge of Roe v. Wade that would end with the 45-year-old decision’s reversal in the Supreme Court.

Reproductive rights advocates say the various pieces of legislation are in keeping with the anti-abortion crowd’s newfound optimism under President Trump, who has said he wants Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe. Mr. Trump may get the chance to appoint a judge who will cast the deciding vote.

As Mr. Trump himself acknowledged during his 2016 town hall, banning abortions does not stop women from getting them — it just makes it harder for them to do so safely. If abortion were banned, “You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places,” Mr. Trump said, inarticulately but correctly noting that some women would be driven to back-alley providers.

That’s one reason abortion rights supporters are so concerned about the Ohio bill. Another is that, even if the bill doesn’t become law, it could pave the way for other, somewhat less extreme measures to pass, seeming reasonable by comparison. For instance, in 2016 John Kasich, the state’s Republican governor, vetoed a bill that would have banned abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which could have effectively outlawed the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. But the same day he signed a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks.

Bills like the Ohio total abortion ban seem outrageous, because they are. But if there’s any lesson to learn from them, it’s that the Republican anti-abortion strategy doesn’t stop with one extreme bill. If it’s up to them, they won’t stop until it’s impossible for many or all women in America to make their own choices about whether to access a safe, popular and common form of health care."

An Ohio Bill Would Ban All Abortions. It’s Part of a Bigger Plan. - The New York Times

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