The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement with additional information from News 5 reporting staff.
A new abortion ban bill created in conjunction with a Virginia-based anti-abortion group has been introduced in Ohio that mimics a Texas law currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, but goes further by proposing to ban nearly all abortions.
State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, introduced House Bill 480 on Tuesday, which allows civil lawsuits against anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” including paying for an abortion even through the use of insurance, according to the language of the bill. State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., is also a sponsor.
The bill allows a defense against civil action for abortions “designed or intended to prevent the death of a pregnant mother and the physician made reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child in a manner consistent with conventional medical practice.”
In announcing the bill, Powell called the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide a “constitutional fiction,” saying her bill “utilizes the enforcement mechanism from the successful Texas Heartbeat Act,” currently under court challenge with the U.S. Supreme Court.
While the Texas case revolves around the detection of a noise during ultrasounds early in pregnancy that doctors describe as electric activity and anti-abortion advocates call a heartbeat — a characterization physicians say is inaccurate — Powell’s proposed legislation has no such standard and would constitute a near total abortion ban. With 33 Republican cosponsors alongside the two sponsors, support for the bill represents more than half the GOP caucus.
The bill comes after Powell spoke at a Los Angeles event for the Arlington, Virginia-based anti-abortion non-profit LiveAction, which said they are partnering with “leaders across the nation starting with Representative Powell” in conjunction with the launch of their campaign.
“The campaign, which kicked off in front of thousands at the Santa Monica Pier, aims to ensure every American knows that abortion is the leading cause of death for children, and to ultimately save every child,” LiveAction said in a press release about the bill.
The CDC does not list abortion as a leading cause of death for children from age 1 to 14 years old. It lists accidents, “congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities” and cancer as the leading causes for children from age 1 to 9, with intentional self-harm (suicide) replacing congenital issues as a leading cause for children 10 to 14 years old.
Ohio’s 2020 abortion report from the Ohio Department of Health showed 20,605 abortions in 2020, more than half of which were induced at less than nine weeks gestation. Of the 441 abortions induced in 19 or more weeks gestation, none were considered viable in medical testing, including ultrasounds.
Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks gestation.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio say banning abortion would be catastrophic to communities across Ohio.
“Lawmakers and anti-abortion vigilantes have no business making personal medical decisions for their neighbors,” said Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy for PPAO.
Advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the bill would have “dangerous” impacts on already marginalized communities in the state and continue a targeted trend for elected officials in the state.
“If all dominos fall in the wrong direction, abortion could be illegal in Ohio by July,” said NARAL executive director Kellie Copeland in a statement. “Every pro-choice Ohioans must register and vote.”
In an interview with News 5 on Tuesday, Copeland said, “We know that when systems like this are in place, people who are most marginalized are the ones who will be most impacted. They'll be the ones who are most scrutinized — black and other women of color, trans and non-binary people. They will be the ones most impacted, but there will be thousands of people who may be forced to continue pregnancies against their will if they can't escape the state of Ohio if they don't have the financial means to do that.”
She said that advocates are “already seeing a significant uptick in threats of violence against people who provide abortion care, and we think that this would be basically a nod from the government to give people like that permission to continue to threaten and harm people, which is completely unacceptable.”
Copeland emphasized that abortion remains legal in Ohio, with nine clinics providing services to patients.
The bill has all-Republican support, which gives it better odds of passage with the legislature’s Republican supermajority.
The abortion ban is one of several pieces of abortion legislation making their way through Ohio’s General Assembly. A “trigger” bill that would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned is currently in Senate committee, and a bill targeting what sponsors called “failed” abortions, a statistically rare occurrence in Ohio, passed through the state Senate, and is headed for House consideration.