COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill Wednesday imposing criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care in the extremely rare circumstance when a baby is born alive following an abortion attempt.
The Republican governor signed the measure over the objections of abortion rights groups, which strenuously objected to provisions that they say could lead to two clinics in southwest Ohio shutting down.
DeWine signed the bill on the same day he received it from the Republican-controlled Legislature. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik called the bill courageous and compassionate.
The measure further requires physicians to report cases of babies born alive after abortion procedures. The legislation also bars clinics that provide abortions from working with doctors who teach at state-funded hospitals and medical schools — which is the part that threatens clinics in southwest Ohio.
Both Women’s Med in Dayton and Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio in suburban Cincinnati operate under state variances that include partnerships with several doctors. Women’s Med's doctors are known to have ties to Wright State University's medical school and Planned Parenthood's statements suggest its doctors may have such ties, as well.
Planned Parenthood has described the law as another in a series of TRAP laws, or “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” aimed to eventually make abortion unavailable inside state borders. The procedure remains constitutionally protected for now.
It was sponsored by Republican state Sens. Terry Johnson, a retired doctor, and Steve Huffman, a practicing physician.
Huffman has called the bill “another step in our continued commitment to uphold the sanctity of human life.” Ohio Right to Life, the state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, calls the new law “anti-infanticide.”
Ohio law already punishes doctors who don’t take efforts to save the lives of babies born alive after abortions. It expands Ohio law by including a new crime of “purposely failing to take measures to preserve the health or life of a child.”
In cases of procedures in abortion clinics, doctors must provide care to a baby born alive, call 911 and arrange transportation to a hospital, under the law.
Instances of babies being born alive after an induced pregnancy termination are extremely rare.
A review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of infant mortality data from 2003 and 2014 showed 143 deaths were of infants that displayed signs of life after an induced termination. That was a tiny fraction of the 315,000 infant deaths during those 12 years, a period that also included 49 million live births.
In a majority of those cases, the abortion was induced due to a maternal complication or congenital anomaly in the fetus.