It’s been just over 100 days since the Supreme Court voted to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade ruling that protected abortion access in all 50 states.
After nearly 50 years of protection, it has taken 4 mere months for 15 states to severely limit or outlaw abortions.
Every clinic in these states has stopped providing abortion services, and 66 have shut their doors.
That means a startling 22 million women of reproductive age have no access to the healthcare they need.
But for pro-life supporters, this is not enough. They want nothing less than a nationwide abortion ban. And Republican legislators — like Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Rep. Chris Smith (New Jersey), and Rep. Danny McCormick (Louisianna) — are working to grant their wish.
But how could these lawmakers pass a nationwide abortion ban when states like Kansas have already voted to protect reproductive rights? Republican legislators could ban abortion by passing fetal personhood laws like the recently introduced Ohio “Personhood Act”.
These dangerous pieces of the legislation argue that life begins at the moment of conception. As soon as an egg is fertilized, they believe it is entitled to the full legal protections of the law and constitution. Even if an embryo is mere weeks old and many months away from the age of viability, it would be granted human rights and offered protection from ‘murder.’
If a fetal personhood law were to pass at the federal level, all abortions would be effectively outlawed in the U.S. with no or few exceptions. Overnight, 167.5 million women would lose access to any abortion services. And if doctors continued to perform the procedure despite the ban, even in cases of rape and incest, they would be branded murderers and prosecuted.
Ohio’s Personhood Act
In July, Ohio State Representative and Christian pastor Gary Click introduced House Bill 704. Known as The Personhood Act; this bill had 7 Republican co-sponsors — Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Kris Jordan, Susan Manchester, Jena Powell, Craig S. Riedel, and Reggie Stolzfus.
The bill reads as follows:
“The state of Ohio shall recognize the personhood, and protect the constitutional rights, of all unborn human individuals from the moment of conception. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted in any manner that would endanger the life of a mother.” (https://search-prod.lis.state.oh.us/solarapi/v1/general_assembly_134/bills/hb704/IN/00/hb704_00_IN?format=pdf)
With a strict “heartbeat bill” already passed in Ohio — which bans abortion after ‘fetal heart activity is detected around 6 weeks — the language in this 2 sentence bill is intentionally brief and vague to allow for the broadest of interpretations.
Opponents of the law, like Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of Pro-Choice Ohio, argue that Click’s Personhood Act would have much more consequences for the people of Ohio than simply outlawing abortion if passed. Copeland said to Fox 8, “[This bill] would eliminate bodily autonomy for everyone who is capable of becoming pregnant” and “limit access to in vitro fertilization.”
With IVF treatment already out of reach for many American families due to the astronomical costs — Pen Medicine reports the average IVF cycle costs $10,000 – $15,000 with insurance coverage — legislation like this rips hope away from prospective Ohio parents. If a couple cannot conceive, this bill will guarantee that they never have the chance to have biological children.
It is also unclear how this bill would categorize women who use illegal drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. Would these women be charged with child abuse or neglect? Or would they face manslaughter charges like in the case of Oklahoma woman Brittney Poolaw?
At least, this bill does include a vague exception for abortions when the mother’s life is in danger. But without clarification, women will be put at risk while they wait for necessary healthcare because their doctors are afraid of the law.
And there are no exceptions written in this bill for abortion in cases of rape or incest. When Rep. Click was asked if this bill would outlaw abortion without exceptions, he said, “My intent is to determine when a person becomes a person… I think it would very likely have that effect.” By not allowing our most vulnerable women and girls access to reproductive healthcare, even in tragic and life-altering circumstances, we are dooming them to further traumatization at the hands of their government.
The Rise of Fetal Personhood Laws
As of October, 8 states around the country have introduced fetal personhood legislation. So far, only Arizona lawmakers have managed to pass one of these bills and enact it as state law.
As soon as Arizona’s law was enacted, abortion became outlawed across the state. Women could not get abortions unless they qualified under just one narrow exception: that their pregnancy was putting their lives in danger.
Luckily, a few weeks after it passed, Arizona’s abortion ban was indefinitely halted by a federal judge. Abortion has been able to could continue, for now, up until 15 weeks gestation.
This fetal personhood bill becoming law sent a dangerous message to pro-life lawmakers across the country. It proved to these legislators that fetal personhood laws can pass through congress. And that once they pass, these laws do successfully ban all abortions.
If we do not want to watch fetal personhood become federal law, we must show up and vote in the upcoming midterm elections. That is the only way we can guarantee that over 167 million women keep their right to abortion services.
And we must fight to reverse the disastrous mistake SCOTUS made by overturning Roe v. Wade. By calling on our Senators and Representatives, we can prevent these bills from becoming law and can codify abortion rights.