Dec. 8—COLUMBUS — The Ohio House voted 59-33 along party lines Wednesday for a bill that opponents predicted would lead to two southwest Ohio abortion clinics closing.
The bill would also make it a first-degree felony for a doctor who, in the process of an abortion, delivers a live baby and fails to take all steps to preserve the infant's health.
Senate Bill 157 "recognizes that every child deserves compassion and care, regardless of the circumstances of their birth...," said Rep. Susan Manchester (R., Waynesfield), who joined all fellow Republicans in support.
"With constant medical advancement, the viability of pre-term babies is constantly improving," she said. "Once a child is born, supporting and life-preserving care is necessary and should be provided."
The so-called "born alive" provision could lead to a doctor being charged with felony manslaughter, carrying up to 11 years in prison. The woman patient could also bring a civil lawsuit against the doctor.
The bill now returns to the Senate for approval of a minor House amendment.
Ohio law currently prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases of emergencies involving the mother.
Medical professionals have generally opposed the idea of creating another criminal penalty for physicians, noting that they are already obligated both legally and ethically to provide care in such circumstances.
Dr. Beth Liston (D., Dublin), the chamber's sole physician, said the bill will primarily stress women who lose wanted babies after 20 weeks as they watch their doctors take every measure to preserve the health of an infant that may only have a few minutes of life.
"Every single instance that [supporters of the bill cite] occurred after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and this makes sense," Rep. Liston said. "There are no viable infants before 20 weeks of pregnancy ... Science is not close to resuscitating and supporting fetuses before 20 weeks. It's just nowhere near that point."
Opponents of the bill are more worried about the other provision making it tougher for abortion clinics to meet the requirement that they have agreements in place with local hospitals to transfer patients in case of emergency.
This could lead to the closure of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region's Mount Auburn Health Center in Cincinnati and the Women's Med Center in Dayton, the only clinics operating on variances approved by the state Department of Health allowing them to substitute local doctors for hospitals.
The bill — introduced by the Senate's two physicians — Terry Johnson (R., McDermott) and Stephen Huffman (R., Tipp City) — would prohibit a doctor who is employed by or contracted with a public university's medical school from participating in such an agreement.
"Without an eligible consulting physician ... these clinics cannot remain open, which is the point...," said Rep. Allison Russo (D., Upper Arlington), who joined fellow Democrats in opposition. "The inclusion of this provision makes it just that, another bill by this legislature to deny women access to a legal and safe medical procedure and to force more women, regardless of their circumstances or health, to carry a pregnancy to term."
First Published December 8, 2021, 4:49pm