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Refuting the Abortion-Centric Narrative of “Ohio docs say new abortion law has them working against oaths to do no harm”
Director of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio | 13 October 2022
On October 7, 2022, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins placed an indefinite block on the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act, a pro-life protection better known as Ohio’s “Heartbeat Law.” The Heartbeat Law, signed into law in April of 2019 and finally enacted by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, prohibits abortion after a preborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. The law does allow for an abortion to be committed if the mother’s life is in danger or if there is a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, as deemed by the physician. However, at the October 7 hearing where the Heartbeat Law would ultimately remain blocked, an odd question was posed by Jenkins, “Does a law that prevents a cancer patient from getting lifesaving treatment infringe on those rights [outlined in the Ohio Constitution]? The answer is obviously it does.” Why would Jenkins blatantly try to paint Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, which has provisions to allow abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, as somehow withholding care from women?
Sadly, this kind of misinformation ran rampant in Ohio in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s reversal. Although not all pro-abortion sources go as far as Jenkins in their seemingly intentional misunderstanding of the Heartbeat Law, the pervasive idea that its implementation has been detrimental to the people of Ohio remains a consistent complaint. A recent article published in the Ohio Capital Journal entitled, “Ohio docs say new abortion law has them working against oaths to do no harm” constitutes a prime example of this narrative. Furthermore, an examination of this article is helpful in deconstructing society’s, and in particular those in the medical community’s, abortion-centric standards of care.
In “Ohio docs,” two main arguments surface in its slanted reporting against Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, which, at the time of the article’s publication, was still in effect. 1) That restricting abortion through Ohio’s Heartbeat Law makes doctors complicit in needless suffering and 2) that the requirements in Ohio’s Heartbeat Law are too legally vague to navigate with any degree of certainty.
The article chronicles multiple scenarios of heartbreaking medical cases post-Roe, including situations where women have “partially delivered fetuses too undeveloped to survive only to see the delivery stall.” It details how with the child only “partly out” women must sign paperwork and wait 24 hours or until the child’s heart stops beating to obtain an abortion under Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill.
The article emphasizes the agony of having to wait, sometimes hours, to be able to remove the child through an abortion. What it fails to mention, however, is that the abortion process itself would be an agonizing procedure that would most likely entail dismembering the child alive without anesthesia and crushing its skull for removal from its mother’s body. Although the anguish of delayed delivery for women in this situation is undeniable, marketing the dismemberment of her child while it is still alive as a reasonable, or even compassionate, solution to her pain is shockingly brutal.
Another situation described in the article concerns a woman who was devastated to receive a most likely fatal fetal diagnosis from her doctor along with possible complications she might also face to her own health. She was counseled to seek an abortion out of state. The doctor commenting on these types of situations argued that carrying a child to term “only to be able to bury it,” was cruel. Her quotes did not however detail what the abortion would entail. The type of abortion that would be done in this case, referred to as an “Induction abortion” involve sticking a needle through the woman’s stomach and injecting the preborn child with digoxin, which chemically induces a heart attack. Labor is then induced, and the child is delivered dead. Abortions like this which occur later in pregnancy are more dangerous for women than other abortions and can even threaten future pregnancies. None of this is mentioned in “Ohio docs.” Instead, the doctor interviewed referenced a highly flawed study that claims that abortion is 14 times safer than pregnancy. A critique by Dr. Priscilla Coleman, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, thoroughly debunked this claim, pointing out that abortion deaths are chronically underreported in the U.S., making the former claim impossible to assert. Additionally, a study from Finland found that women who had abortions were 4 times more likely to die after an abortion than women who gave birth to their babies.
In the midst of these heartbreaking stories, doctors also critiqued the legal requirements of Ohio’s Heartbeat Law, with one doctor claiming that real guidance was impossible to find because “none of these laws have been tested in the courts” and due to the fact that “ the framework by which they would have previously been assessed is no longer in play.” This statement is puzzling on several levels. Firstly, Ohio’s Heartbeat Law has been in court since 2019 so arguing that it had yet to be tested in court is patently absurd. Secondly, complaining about a lack of legal guidance, while in the same sentence bemoaning the legal guidance clearly given in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, reveals an obvious double-standard.
Another doctor interviewed blamed lawmakers for issues she took against the bill, claiming that legislators “didn’t go into this blindly” and pointed out that physicians provided testimony against SB 23 during the legislative process. She is correct, but her analysis is decidedly one-sided. During hearings in the Ohio Senate for the Heartbeat Bill, 15 medical professionals testified in support of the legislation. 12 of the 15 were doctors of medicine, one an OB/GYN, and two were registered nurses. Not all medical professionals are unable to see past abortion to truly compassionate medical solutions.
Throughout “Ohio docs,” various doctors interviewed raised issues with what they felt were vague guidelines for what abortions were permissible under which circumstances. It is helpful to clarify in short what the Ohio Revised Code describes as the medically diagnosed conditions which fall under the category of “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” They include “pre-eclampsia, inevitable abortion, and premature rupture of the membranes, [and] may include, but is not limited to, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.” By being explicit about specific medical conditions that are exempt from the law, but also not limiting permissible hard cases to only these conditions, Ohio’s Revised Code gives obvious and intentional agency to medical professionals. Whether they will actually seek to understand the Heartbeat Law enough to utilize intentional legal structure, however, seems doubtful.
The article suggests that this willful lack of understanding stems from the medical community’s doubt that the Heartbeat Law would ever go into effect. This is clumsily explained by saying that “The consequence was that provisions of a law passed at a time when no one knew if it would ever take effect suddenly were real…” From this statement, it can be extrapolated that because many physicians did not believe that Ohio’s Heartbeat Law would ever be implemented, they failed to think through their responsibilities to ensure the standard of care in that event. More simply put, the pro-abortion medical community has relied on abortion for too long to know how to operate without it. Despite this, patients deserve to have doctors who do their due diligence and are willing to comprehend legal guidelines. Many medical situations beyond abortion are complex, and doctors face situations with high stakes on a day-to-day basis. None of these are so complicated as to necessitate that preborn children should be more easily killed for the sake of clarity.
There is no argument as to whether or not heartbreaking and hard situations can and do arise during pregnancy. There is, however, plenty of reason to argue that women are failed by the medical community when all of their solutions are based on the idea that their children’s lives are disposable. Situations in which both women's and babies’ lives are on the line will be emotional and intense. In a very real sense, they are required to be. Ending a human life is a fearful thing. Other solutions must be brainstormed, as both woman and baby are carefully monitored. Unfortunately, in seeking to minimize anguish above all else, the medical community has made itself all too ready to create new victims.
Ohio’s Heartbeat Law compels doctors to do what they should have been doing all along: holding the health and safety of all their patients, born and preborn, in tension. To truly “do no harm,” Ohio doctors would do well to revisit an older version of the Hippocratic oath which clearly lays out their sacred duty to protect all human life: “I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly, I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.” Sadly, this pledge has been taken out of most modern versions. Abortion has constituted an “easy out” for decades and it will take time and cultural change for the medical community to adjust.
The Ohio Capital Journal’s obvious bias in “Ohio docs'' obscures the reality behind each hard case: that there are two patients worthy of excellent and ethical care. Articles like this must be recognized for what they really are: attempts to undermine legislation that protects humans with beating hearts. These hard cases are often used to suggest that pro-life laws are detrimental to society, but it is important to remember that abortion apologists have no intention of limiting legalized abortions to only these painful scenarios. Instead, they continue to use the tragic, real-life stories of women experiencing heartbreaking medical situations to justify a need to kill their babies without consequences.
 Balmert, Jessie and Cameron Knight, “Ohio's six-week abortion ban on hold indefinitely. State expected to appeal,” Cincinnati Enquirer, October 7, 2022, accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2022/10/07/abortion-in-ohio-will-states-six-week-ban-remain-on-hold/69536964007/.
 Zummo, Maija,“Ohio's 'Heartbeat Bill' Abortion Ban Is Now Law. Here's What That Means.” City Beat, June 27, 2022, accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.citybeat.com/news/ohios-heartbeat-bill-abortion-ban-is-now-law-heres-what-that-means-13403732.
 See footnote no. 1
 Schladen, Marty, “Ohio docs say new abortion law has them working against oaths to do no harm,” Ohio Capital Journal, September 7, 2022, accessed October 11, 2022. https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2022/09/07/ohio-docs-say-new-abortion-law-has-them-working-against-oaths-to-do-no-harm/.
 “2nd Trimester Abortion | Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) | What Is Abortion?” Live Action, June 14, 2022. YouTube video, 4:28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR1Ut4BPbOw&t=134s
 “3rd Trimester Late-Term Abortion | Induction Abortion | What Is Abortion?” Live Action, June 14, 2022. YouTube video, 3:49. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBIhez7C1dM&t=180s.
 Raymond, Elizabeth G, and David A Grimes. “The comparative safety of legal induced abortion and childbirth in the United States.” Obstetrics and Gynecology vol. 119,2 Pt 1 (2012): 215-9. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e31823fe923. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271/.
 “Abortion not safer for women than childbirth,” nifla.org, accessed October 11, 2022. https://nifla.org/abortion-not-safer-women-childbirth/.
 Ohio Right to Life, “ACLU, Planned Parenthood Sue on Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill,” ohiolife.org, May 15, 2019, accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.ohiolife.org/aclu_planned_parenthood_sue_on_hb_bill.
 “Senate Bill 23: Committee Activity,” Ohio Legislature. legislature.ohio.gov, accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-committee-documents?id=GA133-SB-23
 Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2919.16. https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-2919.16
 “Greek Medicine - Hippocratic Oath.” Translated by Michael North. Greek Medicine, National Library of Medicine, 2002, accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html#:~:text=The%20Hippocratic%20Oath%20(%CE%9F%CF%81%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%82)%20is,number%20of%20professional%20ethical%20standards.