Women across the country are hardly strangers to their political representatives' attempts to pass aggressive abortion restrictions. But legislators from Ohio have truly outdone themselves as of late. Specifically, they're taking issue with fetus disposal and are now attempting to make "respectful" — and costly — methods mandatory.
The bill: Republicans State Rep. Kyle Koehler, Sen. Joe Uecker and Rep. Robert McColley recently introduced a bill that would require women who have had abortions to fill out a form provided by the Ohio Department of Health indicating whether they would prefer to cremate or bury their aborted fetus, Cincinnati Enquirer reported Monday. Clinics would be required to perform the designated method then could require the women treated to pay the cost, according to a Ohio Public Radio report.
In addition to curbing women's decision-making autonomy, this requirement raises other possible infringements on women's rights. Currently, the identities of women who have had abortions in the state are not collected. McColley assured Ohio Public Radio that these forms would not serve the purpose of collecting "specific person by person names and information" to form a registry of women in the state who have had this procedure. But requiring them to sign such forms raises questions about their anonymity all the same.
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The cost of this type of disposal, which could be placed squarely on women who have the procedure, is also concerning. Studies show that abortion in the United States is concentrated among low-income women, yet cremation costs $1,100 on average and burial costs even more, Jezebel noted. Though seemingly central to the legislation, McColley said to Ohio Public Radio that the exact details of disposal have yet to be determined.
Though this bill centers on and raises concerns for women undergoing this procedure, supporters insist the issue is a matter of respect for fetuses.
"The idea of respectfully treating the remains of an infant who has been aborted, I think is critical," Republican Rep. Barbara Sears told Ohio Public Radio of the bill. To illustrate this point, Sears compared the current treatment of aborted and miscarried fetuses to that of deceased pets.
"I think that you can see how we treat our own childhood pets when we are disposing of them in a respectful way, you know I think that people are shocked," she said.
But this "respect" hardly extends to all parties involved, Gabriel Mann of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told Ohio Public Radio.
"The only reason that these bills are being introduced is because they want to try to harass abortion providers and harass women that are seeking a safe and legal procedure," Mann said.
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Increasing restrictions: This rhetoric seems to purposely call on an Ohio code that requires the "humane" disposal of fetuses — the same code the state's attorney general invoked when he accused three Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates of failing to meet an adequate standard of fetus disposal last week.
Planned Parenthood refuted these claims and a U.S. judge temporarily blocked the state from taking legal action, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's attempt to curb access to abortion is hardly an anomaly in the state. Seven of Ohio's 16 abortion clinics have been closed in the past four years, placing Ohio just behind Texas in terms of national closures, according to a Associated Press report, and Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich has also made efforts to restrict reproductive rights — like appointing the executive director of a pro-life organization, Ohio Right to Life, as a member of the state medical board, according to a 2013 Cleveland.com op-ed, and helping include abortion restrictions in the state's 2013 budget bill, Associated Press reported last month.
Even beyond the specific issues of this bill or other abortion bans generally, a broader issue remains, according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. None of the restrictive policies put forth "will help prevent unintended pregnancy, and therefore the need for abortion," she said in a previous statement. "In fact, quite the opposite."