Some details of this article link to and include graphic descriptions of sexual assault, including sexual violence against minor victims, and may be triggering for some readers.
A lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, against Ohio Attorney General David Yost seeks to end the state’s extreme abortion law. The suit, filed by Preterm-Cleveland on behalf of multiple unnamed plaintiffs, cites numerous affidavits from minors who were made pregnant by sexual assault but unable to access abortion care, as well as pregnant adults who were refused abortion care, resulting in dangerous medical emergencies and in at least two cases, having to pause chemotherapy at the risk of felony charges.
The Ohio Capital Journal reports the affidavits were successful in at least temporarily pausing the abortion law and extending the pause to Oct. 14. The suit ultimately intends to find Ohio’s “heartbeat ban” unconstitutional.
Daily Kos reported in July about the case of a 10-year-old sexual assault survivor who was forced to leave the state and travel to a physician in Indiana for a legal abortion. At the time, many in the GOP denied the veracity of the story, and Yost threatened to investigate the Indiana doctor who ultimately provided the child’s abortion care across state lines.
But that 10-year-old was not an anomaly. At least two affidavits included in this case are from minor victims of sexual assault, both impregnated and unable to access legal abortions in the state.
The affidavits are incredibly troubling: After being denied abortion care, some women threatened to end their lives; two women with cancer could not have abortions, rendering them unable to continue their cancer treatments due to their pregnancies; several cases involve women pregnant with embryos that had fatal or devastating abnormalities, making the chances of a successful pregnancy hopeless; and at least two survivors of sexual assault who were minors were forced to leave the state to receive lawful abortion care.
In 2019, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed SB 23, a fetal “heartbeat law” criminalizing abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detectable by ultrasound, which is at about six weeks gestation, or about two weeks before most pregnant people know they’re pregnant. The law went into effect in June when the Supreme Court ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reversing its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
In her affidavit, Sharon Liner, medical director of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, wrote:
In the days after S.B. 23 took effect, we had to cancel over 600 appointments … Many patients broke down in tears in our office. Many patients that we could not reach by phone who came to our health center expecting to have their appointment were extremely upset; some threatened to hurt themselves because they were so distraught.
We have had at least three patients threaten to commit suicide. Another patient said she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach. Another asked how much Vitamin C she would need to take to terminate her pregnancy.
As CNN reports, the Ohio law allows for abortion care in very few instances: when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest “and that rape or incest has been reported to law enforcement,” to “prevent the death” of the pregnant person, and in cases where there is a “serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
But the law doesn’t clearly state what qualifies as a “serious risk,” and Ohio doctors are in jeopardy of losing their licenses or facing criminal prosecution for offering abortion care—so many choose not to.
Ohio-based attorney Jessie Hill, currently battling the state’s restrictive abortion law in the courts, tells CNN, “Doctors are just not sure how sick is sick enough. … There’s just a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear around this right now.”
The Ohio Capital Journal reports that Ohio clinics have been reduced to referring patients out of state to “Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York” for abortion care—a difficult and often impossible alternative for low-income and working people.
A medical assistant at Preterm-Cleveland, Allegra Pierce, writes in her affidavit that most of her patients simply cannot afford to travel out of state:
Even though many patients can access sources of funding for seeking an abortion, there are so many barriers that make traveling out of state inaccessible for many of our patients, including the cost of travel, child-care responsibilities, and difficulty getting time off of work, just to name a few. Even those patients who are able to travel out of state often have a hard time getting an appointment due to increasingly long wait times at clinics in states where abortion is still legal.
As NPR reports, abortion is on the ballot in the upcoming midterms. A poll from Emerson College shows Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan with an 8-point advantage among women even though Ohio has become a predominantly red state.
“Ohio is fascinating because before the Dobbs decision, men were actually out-registering women by a very narrow margin,” Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist and CEO of polling and data firm TargetSmart, told NPR. “Since Dobbs, that’s flipped entirely, so that now women are out-registering men by an 11-point margin. So about a 12-point flip, which puts Ohio among the top states of the biggest gender gaps since the Dobbs decision.”
Abortion rights, climate change, and gun safety are all on the ballot this fall, and there are literally thousands of ways to get involved in turning our voters. Plug into a federal, state, or local campaign from our GOTV feed at Mobilize and help Democrats and progressives win in November.
Since Dobbs, women have registered to vote in unprecedented numbers across the country, and the first person to dig into these stunning trends was TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier, who’s our guest on this week’s episode of The Downballot. Bonier explains how his firm gathers data on the electorate; why this surge is likely a leading indicator showing stepped-up enthusiasm among many groups of voters, including women, young people, and people of color; how we know these new registrants disproportionately lean toward Democrats; and what it all might mean for November.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.