Proposed Ohio Abortion Ban Would Force Doctors to Re-Implant Ectopic Pregnancies, Risking Women's Lives

Republican lawmakers in Ohio are attempting to pass a bill that would legally recognize fetuses as people, leading abortion doctors to be liable for aggravated murder charges for terminating a pregnancy.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that House Bill 413 would only allow abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected—around Week 6, during the embryonic stage of pregnancy—if the life of the woman is in danger, and the penalties for performing one under other circumstances would be either life imprisonment or death.

A stethoscope over a fetal ultrasound
A stethoscope over a fetal ultrasound September15 / Getty Images

Women receiving abortions would not face criminal charges under the proposed law.

The ramifications of the bill have abortion-rights advocates concerned. They say that the criteria for determining whether the pregnancy threatens the woman's life are too restrictive. "Instead of making Ohio a safe place for women, children and families, Ohio politicians are focused on outlawing safe medical procedures and punishing people for seeking abortion care," Chrisse France, the executive director of Preterm, Ohio's largest abortion provider, told the Dayton Daily News.

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo has attached and started to grow outside the uterus, doctors are required to surgically intervene to remove it.

HB 413 contains language that demands doctors take "all possible steps" to save an embryo or fetus, including "attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman's uterus."

There has never been a documented medical procedure in which an ectopic fetus has been removed and re-transplanted. Rather than surgical intervention, many anti-abortion campaigners have supported "watchful waiting" in which the woman's doctor monitors their condition until the ectopic pregnancy miscarries. That can result in significant health risks.

About 1 in every 50 pregnancies in the United States is ectopic. The condition is the leading cause of death in pregnant women in the first trimester.

Ohio state Representative Candice Keller, one of the bill's primary sponsors, released a statement reading, "The time for regulating evil and compromise is over. The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and recognize that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable right to life."

Although the federal right to abortion was affirmed by the 1973 Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, many states have passed "trigger laws" designed to criminalize the procedure inside state lines. Those laws, like HB 413, would go into effect if the Supreme Court decision was overturned.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland released a statement in response to the bill, saying "Every abortion ban and medically dubious regulation shares the same goal as this bill—to outlaw abortion and strip Ohioans of their reproductive freedom."

Many states have also passed laws to make it more difficult for abortion providers to do business, including mandated waiting periods, decreased insurance coverage and bans on the procedure after a certain date of fetal development.