COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect some abortion access in the country.
One of his big talking points focused on Ohio, where it has been reported that a 10-year-old rape victim had to travel out of state for abortion care because she had just crossed the six-week mark of pregnancy, meaning an abortion would be illegal under Ohio’s new law.
“Just imagine being that little girl, 10 years old,” the president said in his speech. “Does anyone believe that this is Ohio’s majority view, that that should not be able to be dealt with, or in any other state in the nation? A 10-year-old girl should be forced to give birth to a rapist’s child? I can tell you what, I don't. I can’t think of anything that’s much more extreme.”
The president then laid out some of the actions of his executive order, which include formalized instructions to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to push back on efforts to limit the ability of women to access federally approved abortion medication or to travel across state lines to access clinical abortion services.
But the president also acknowledged there were limitations to what he could do, and a local law professor agrees.
“There’s just not a lot that the president can do right now,” said Mark Brown, Newton D. Baker/Baker and Hostetler Chair of Law at Capital University. “The order was anticipated, we expected it. It pretty much has in it what we figured he could put in it. It just doesn’t do much.”
But Brown pointed to one argument that could make a potential impact on Ohioans. President Biden wants to ensure access to the abortion pill, which has been federal approved. And Attorney General Merrick Garland already has issued a statement saying states cannot ban the FDA-approved Mifepristone, a medication used to end early pregnancy.
“Ohio’s argument is, you can’t take it after six weeks because of the Heartbeat Bill, but that’s an argument,” Brown said. “That’s not clear at all. If I’m Biden, or if I’m a lawyer in the justice department, or if I’m a private lawyer representing a poor woman who’s been placed in this terrible position, my argument’s going to be, hey, the FDA has approved it, that preempts Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill, as applied to me, I can take the drug, even after six weeks. That’s the kind of argument you’re going to be making.”
Brown is quick to point out that taking that drug past six weeks of pregnancy is still a legal risk in Ohio. He notes there are strong legal arguments on both sides.
“We don’t have a clear answer on whether the federal FDA approval preempts Ohio law, so you’re taking your chances there, and I’m not sure that’s something you really want to do in Ohio,” he said.
10TV reached out to Gov. Mike DeWine's office for a comment on Biden's executive order, but they did not reply.