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Ohio Senate bill would curtail abortion method

Party-line vote sends virtual ban to floor

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    Opponents of the abortion bill in silent protest in the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, Jun 27. They are dressed like characters from The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel and TV series depicting a future totalitarian society in which women are subjugated and forced to bear children.

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    Supporters of the abortion bill in the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, Jun 27. Left to right: Nicholas Kallis, of Columbus, Evangeline Dunn, of Mansfield, James Silberman, of Columbus.

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COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday to all but outlaw the most common abortion procedure used during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed, to send the full chamber Senate Bill 145. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) and Steve Wilson (R., Maineville), would, with few exceptions, ban dilation and evacuation, the procedure used 2,951 times, typically between 13 and 24 weeks of gestation, in 2015.

“Ohio’s laws have stated a clear preference, as befits a civil society, of preferring live child birth over abortion,” said Barry Sheets, of the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio. “Ohio needs to go further and intercede to keep this barbaric and inhumane practice from continuing in our state.”

The bill would still have to clear the House. That’s unlikely to occur quickly given that lawmakers plan this week to recess for the summer after sending Gov. John Kasich their final two-year budget bill.

This procedure involves the dilation of the cervix and then surgical evacuation of tissue from the uterus. A similar process is sometimes used following miscarriages.

Generally, Ohio law prohibits an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a constraint Mr. Kasich signed late last year. But this bill, like the partial birth abortion ban several years ago, goes after a specific procedure rather than a time frame.

The hearing was again the subject of a silent protest by 16 women wearing red robes and white bonnets similar to those in The Handmaid’s Tale , the novel and TV series depicting a future American totalitarian society in which women are subjugated and forced to bear children.

Supporters of the bill countered by filling the front rows of the hearing room with teens and young adults wearing white T-shirts stating “Don’t Dismember Me.”

Seven other states have enacted similar bans.

“Curiously, you have heard almost nothing about the results of those laws’ passages,” said Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. “So far, lawsuits challenging those bans have been filed in five states.

“This has led to three injunctions halting enforcement of those laws and another voluntary halt while litigation proceeds,” he said. A fourth is set for a hearing soon.

“In other words, lawsuits challenging these bans have incurred a 100 percent track record of success,” Mr. Daniels said.

“SB 145 will be challenged in court at some point. Given the current trajectory of these bans, it’s hard to believe that Ohio will be any more successful in its defense.”

The bill includes exceptions for cases in which the life or health of the mother is at serious risk. It does not include an exception for cases involving rape or incest.

“This bill is not going to prevent folks in the first trimester from obtaining any abortion through some other method,” Mr. Huffman said. “This isn’t causing any delays in the first trimester.”

Sen. Cecil Thomas (D., Cincinnati) opposes the bill.

“Those folks who are most learned in this discussion have spoken against passage of this bill,” he said. “I have not heard of any testimony of a method that would be safer or equally as safe as the method that is currently being used.”

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