In Final Weeks, Ohio Lawmakers Rush to Pass Laws Impacting Women

statehouse_FB cropIt’s the last full week of business for the Ohio General Assembly before legislators adjourn for the summer, and lawmakers are busily working to pass a number of measures that would impact women.

Closing Abortion Clinics – In what is becoming a ritual every two years, amendments were added to the state budget (House Bill 64) that would make it even more difficult to obtain a legal abortion in Ohio. One provision requires clinics to have written agreements with private hospitals within 30 miles, clearly aimed at closing Toledo’s last remaining clinic whose agreement is with a hospital in Ann Arbor, approximately 50 miles away. Another, which could have the effect of closing the only clinics in Dayton and Cincinnati, states that the state Health Department must deny after 60 days any request to waive certain requirements to operate. The first amendment was stripped from the bill in a deal brokered by Democratic Senator Sandra Williams, but the latter remains in the bill.

20 Week Abortion Ban – Today and tomorrow, committee hearings and a vote are scheduled for Senate Bill 127, a measure that bans abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The only exception is when the mother’s life is in immediate danger. With two hearings in two days, the Senate has signaled its intention to pass the bill quickly before the summer break.

Down Syndrome Abortion Ban – Also last week, a House panel approved House Bill 135, which would punish doctors for performing abortions in cases where there has been a Down Syndrome diagnosis. Only one other state has such a law on the books. The full House has yet to vote on the measure.

Medication Abortions – Finally, last week, House Bill 255 was introduced. The bill regulates how medication abortions are performed in Ohio. In most states, women can end their pregnancies by taking a prescription medication under the supervision of a doctor. Because of how Ohio has chosen to regulate the procedure, women in Ohio take higher doses, experience more side effects, make an additional visit to their physician, and have two fewer weeks in which to seek the procedure. HB255  would preserve Ohio’s uniquely stiff limits on medication abortions, restrict doctors from using newer medications or combinations of medications, and impose new requirements on doctors who perform the procedure. The bill has its first hearing in the House today.

Rape ProsecutionsHouse Bill 6, which extends the statute of limitations for the prosecution of rape and sexual battery, is up for a vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee tomorrow. The bill has already passed the full Senate, so it will head to the Governor if successful in the House.

STD Treatments – This week, the House holds its third hearing on House Bill 124, authorizing what is known as “expedited partner therapy,” or allowing prescriptions to be written for partners of individuals diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases without a physical exam. Ohio is one of only four states that currently prohibit the practice. STD infections disproportionately affect women and can have serious health effects. According to testimony from Dr. Laura David, “Infections with chlamydia and gonorrhea in our women, especially our young women at peak reproductive age, can lead to permanent pelvic organ scarring and inflammation, which is a major cause of infertility, ectopic or tubal pregnancies, and acute and chronic abdominal and pelvic pain” and cost the healthcare system $850 million in additional treatment each year.