In September, Texas enacted the nation's most extreme abortion ban. Two months later, legislators in Ohio are pushing an abortion ban that goes even further. And the bill has significant momentum.
The Texas law bans abortions after about six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Since many women don't even know they are pregnant after six weeks, very few abortions have been performed in Texas since the law went into effect. An Oklahoma City clinic reported that 60% of its appointments are filled by women from Texas, including rape victims.
The Ohio bill, which is co-sponsored by 35 House Republicans, bans all abortions at any time during pregnancy. Like Texas, there are no exceptions for rape or incest. There is a limited exception to protect the life of the mother. But the burden is on the physician to prove "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."
The bill could be interpreted to prohibit or limit forms of emergency contraception and birth control. The bill defines an "unborn child" as "an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth." In the scientific community, pregnancy is defined as "when a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of her uterus." Some birth control works "by thinning the lining of [the] uterus so that even if an egg is fertilized, it doesn’t implant." By defining a fertilized egg that hasn't been implanted as an "unborn child," the bill could arguably make these forms of birth control illegal.
The Ohio bill mimics the Texas enforcement model. The state's total abortion ban would be enforced by anti-abortion vigilantes. "Any person" could sue someone who helps a woman get an abortion in Ohio. Successful plaintiffs would be awarded at least $10,000. Law enforcement would not have a role — a gimmick designed to evade judicial review. It has worked so far for Texas.
The legislation is sponsored by Ohio Representatives Jena Powell (R) and Thomas Hall (R). Powell is affiliated with the controversial anti-abortion group Live Action. The group has published videos falsely "claiming Planned Parenthood harvested and sold fetal body parts." In 2019, the group was permanently banned from Pinterest for spreading "harmful misinformation, [which] includes medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence." Powell introduced the bill shortly after appearing at a Live Action event in Los Angeles. In a press release, Live Action said it had "partnered" with Powell on the "historic" legislation. Powell's abortion ban, known as the 2363 Act, shares a name with Live Action's advocacy campaign to end all abortions.
But Powell and Hall have convinced 33 other House Republicans to co-sponsor their extreme legislation. The group of legislators pushing this abortion ban is backed by some of the largest and most prestigious corporations in the United States.
Corporations supporting the legislators behind a total abortion ban in Ohio
One of the top corporate donors to the co-sponsors of the proposed abortion ban in Ohio is Nationwide. Since 2018, Nationwide has donated $30,500 to 19 co-sponsors of the legislation.
The donations stand in contrast to Nationwide's carefully crafted public image as a supporter of women's rights. In a March 2021 release celebrating Women's History Month, Nationwide said the company seeks "to advance equity for all" and "inspire hope and change for women at Nationwide and beyond."
Nationwide has repeatedly sponsored a "Women's Empowerment Brunch."
Pfizer boasts that it “celebrat[es] and empower[s] women,” but, since 2018, it has donated $9,550 to 17 co-sponsors of Ohio’s abortion ban. Pfizer also manufactures an abortion drug.
Health insurer Anthem says it strives to "empower women within our own organization and in the communities we serve" but, since 2018, it has donated $6,500 to six co-sponsors of Ohio's abortion abortion ban.
Johnson & Johnson says it has been “championing women...since our founding more than 130 years ago.” The company says that it is essential to give women "the freedom to pursue their passions," adding that "[c]aring for women in our global community will fuel the future of human health.” Yet, the company has donated $5,400 to nine co-sponsors of Ohio’s abortion ban.
UnitedHealth Group promotes itself as a champion of women's equality but, in the last three years, it has donated $6,000 to two co-sponsors of Ohio's abortion ban.
Other top corporate contributors to the co-sponsors of Ohio's proposed abortion ban include Charter Communications ($19,700), FirstEnergy ($19,000), GM ($13,700), Duke Energy ($12,250), and AT&T ($4,500).
This was predictable when Ohio elected Mike DeWine as governor. There is no question that he will sign this bill if it passes (and it probably will). It’s the type of legislation that makes me embarrassed to be an Ohioan. At least I escaped.
Infuriating, as usual, but Pfizer's involvement when it manufactures an abortion drug seems puzzling. Maybe it just believes these sponsors of the abortion bill will advance legislation beneficial to them regardless.