Ohio bill ignores women’s rights
House Bill 78, which makes the medical practice of abortion after 20 weeks illegal, is egregious, dangerous legislation that warrants dialogue and criticism. In a July 28 piece by 21 WFMJ-TV, Mahoning County Right to Life Vice President Don Priester urged people to “recognize [a fetus at 20 weeks] ... as a person who deserves their life.” While I value the rights to life that all persons share, I cannot support legislation that devalues and endangers the lives of women and families who each face unique medical and personal circumstances.
Abortion is not a desirable procedure. At 20 weeks, the decision to terminate can be painful. That no pregnancy is alike, that no family’s circumstances are the same, are critical considerations left out of HB 78. Many fetal anomalies are not detectable prior to 20 weeks — such conditions put families through unimaginable emotional and financial stress. In cases where medical anomalies severely impacting a child’s happiness and health are discovered, it is often the sentiment of the woman that terminating a wanted pregnancy is the most humane, loving option, done in the best interests of the child.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the ability of a woman to seek an abortion during any stage of pregnancy “is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health” of that woman. Exempting mental health from this formula, as HB 78 does, does a grave disservice to women. Women with mental illness are often advised by physicians to cease taking medication, which can be life threatening; accordingly, a physician may determine that it is in the best interests of a woman’s health and the fetus’s that she terminate her pregnancy. HB 78 fails to protect Ohio’s women living with mental illness, and it fails to protect rape and incest survivors and their loved ones, who, having already suffered a dehumanizing crime, are now expected to view an unwanted pregnancy as a triumph over rape.
Molly E. Toth, Struthers
The writer is vice president of Ohio Lady Advocates, a Youngstown-based advocacy group for reproductive rights.