COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – For a moment, set aside how you feel about abortion so we can explore some issues.
The first is if the government should tell private businesses what they can and cannot sell to consumers. In this case, we are talking about health insurance.
Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 21(B) provides that no “federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.”
State Representative John Becker has a bill being considered in the Ohio Legislature. When asked what it did, he said, “It prevents insurance companies from paying for abortion services.”
It does more than that, but he was not wrong. His bill would prevent insurance companies from paying for the services because they would not be able to offer to cover those services in the first place.
The Ohio Legislative Service Commission helps lawmakers craft their bills. Most lawmakers are not experts in law, or other areas, and LSC helps make sure things are written properly and does research to assist them in the creation of legislation that affects every Ohioan.
According to the bill analysis LSC has done for Becker’s bill (something they do for every bill that is introduced at the statehouse), “A health insuring corporation cannot provide coverage for a nontherapeutic abortion under any policy, contract or agreement that is issued, delivered or renewed in Ohio.”
At the end of its analysis, LSC comments on the bill with the following:
“Certain provisions of the bill prohibit the provision of health coverage for nontherapeutic abortions. It is not clear what impact this constitutional provision has on the bill since the provision has not yet been construed by a court.”
Unable to assess the constitutionality of the bill, LSC simply points out the potential issue.
This part of the state constitution was put there in response to the Affordable Care Act. Some find that ironic, and it is the impetus for this issue to become the first of several tent poles of opposition they have to the bill.
Another issue opponents of the bill have is how it attempts to redefine nontherapeutic, also known as elective abortions.
According to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Becker, “Any contraceptive that simply prevents fertilization is not affected by this bill at all. It’s only the birth control devices and chemicals that actually cause abortions; so that is after fertilization you now have a human being; if that human being is destroyed, that’s an abortion.”
That’s a lot to unpack. Let’s start with the idea of contraceptive versus abortion.
If you ask the Deputy Director of NARAL Pro-Choice, Jaime Miracle, she will say, “Birth control pills, IUDs, all of those things are contraceptives, they do not cause an abortion to happen.”
Becker seems to agree, again stating, “Any contraceptive that simply prevents fertilization is not affected by this bill at all.”
However, this is where timing becomes an issue. According to Miracle “A pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. Everything that happens after that point is an abortion; everything that happens before that point is contraception.”
Becker sees things differently.
“After fertilization, you now have a human being; if that human being is destroyed — that’s an abortion,” said Becker.
His bill backs that thought process up.
According to LSC’s bill analysis, “The bill expands what is considered a “nontherapeutic abortion” under continuing Ohio law and for purposes of the bill by defining it as an abortion that is performed or induced when the life of the mother would not be endangered if the fetus were carried to term. This includes drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.
Which leads Miracle to conclude, “Under his non-medical definition of abortion, [contraceptives] are included in this bill.”
Whether Becker is right or wrong about contraceptives not being affected by his bill is heavily dependent on whose viewpoints you are applying to determine the validity of the statement.
If you apply his viewpoint that only things that prevent fertilization are considered contraceptives than he is right, the bill clearly does not affect them.
However, if you apply Miracle’s viewpoint that anything used prior to the implanting of a fertilized egg in the uterus is a contraceptive, then clearly the bill does affect them.
The final thing to explore deals with ectopic pregnancies and how this bill impacts them.
To be clear, Rep. Becker really wants to express how his bill takes great lengths to provide exceptions to protect the life of the mother.
“I think there is some intentional misreporting going on from Planned Parenthood and others saying that this bill would force women to die because they won’t be able to get treatment for a tubal pregnancy or things like that, which is simply not true at all,” said Becker.
According to the LSC analysis, the bill “excludes from the definition of “nontherapeutic abortion” (1) a procedure for an ectopic pregnancy that is intended to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus, and (2) a procedure, in an emergency situation, that is medically necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.”
For those who don’t know, here is Dr. Stuart Jones, an OB/GYN with Ohio Health, to explain what an ectopic pregnancy is.
“The definition is basically, a fertilized embryo that implants outside of the uterus,” said Jones.
He says these are most often found within the fallopian tube but can be found in a number of different areas.
They are also unviable pregnancies.
“Quite dangerous, actually,” said Jones. “They basically implant where there is a blood supply and they grow there; and so this blood supply, eventually, can become eroded into by the pregnancy itself and it can rupture those blood vessels.”
If that happens, the mother could bleed to death.
This is where an important distinction was made in the conversation. However, before we get to that, let’s go back to Becker for a moment.
Last fall, Becker was a vocal opponent to a pay raise for lawmakers and other elected officials that was slipped into a Christmas Tree bill in lame duck.
He voted against that bill and it passed anyway. Ever since, he has donated that pay increase each and every month.
It is one of the reasons why one could find him credible when he says he cares about the health of the mother.
Another is how he feels about ectopic pregnancies and his desire to see the fertilized egg moved.
“If it’s possible but, you know, that technology is in its infancy, there is still a long way to go on that,” said Becker. “That’s not an easy solution but it is possible,” said Becker. “It’s medically possible to do that and this bill allows for that procedure and it specifically states that that procedure is not an abortion.”
When pressed if he was sure this was viable, Becker went on to say, “It has been done, but it is rare, and I think as future technology improves that something like that will be more viable.”
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Jones with his 28 years as a medical professional in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, Becker is just plain wrong about all of that.
“A pregnancy in the tube cannot be saved,” said Jones. “I get this question all the time when I have an ectopic; can you take that pregnancy and transport over to the uterus and reimplant it? No technology exists at this time that allows us to do that.”
He would go on to say, “We can’t detach it, it’s so small trying to cleave that off of tissue which it’s already grown into is an impossibility. Plus, at that point, we’ve actually taken the blood supply away from that fetus or that pregnancy, which most times is just a sac, and it just can’t reimplant.”
But why not?
“Once that blood flow is interrupted from the tube, that is no longer viable,” said Jones. “The amount of time it would take to re-attach, create a blood supply to that embryo again, would be far more than the low oxygen levels that would occur during that time period.”
At that time, things are just too small.
“You can’t revascularize that placenta, that is [an inch] big,” said Jones.
Since there is currently no procedure for reimplanting, abortions for ectopic pregnancies would not be exempt until there is a risk to the life of the mother, as is the case with many abortion exceptions.
“How far towards death does she have to be before [the abortion] is covered [by insurance],” asked Miracle. “Does she have to be bleeding out, does the tube already have to be ruptured before insurance can cover that?”
Becker’s bill does not define when the life of the mother clause kicks in.
According to Jones, a rupture during an ectopic pregnancy accounts for 10 to15% of fatalities in the first trimester of a pregnancy.
Despite Becker being completely wrong about the existence of a procedure to transplant an ectopic pregnancy, Jones shares his hope for one day there being such medical advancements.
One final thing about Becker’s insurance bill is that It removes the exceptions for rape and incest when a woman is seeking to use insurance to pay for an abortion.
That means if a young woman is raped, or is the victim of incest, she would not be able to use insurance to pay that bill.
So far, 19 Republican lawmakers have signed up to be co-sponsors of the bill. That is one-fifth of the Ohio House of Representatives.
Many of them have taken long-time and ardent pro-life stances.
Two of them introduced a bill that would outlaw all abortions across the board with no exceptions, last General Assembly.
Ohio Right to Life, the largest anti-abortion organization in the State, has taken no official stance on the bill and say they have no involvement with it.
The organization is busy pushing five other abortion-related bills at the moment.
It should be noted, Ohio Right to Life did not officially support the Heartbeat bill until just before it was passed, the for the second time, last fall; after Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court of the United States, and Governor DeWine (who had pledged to sign the bill on the campaign trail) had won his election in November.