Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is not a moderate or a doctor, today vetoed Ohio’s proposed “heartbeat bill,” which would have effectively banned abortion altogether by outlawing it at six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t know they’re pregnant. This isn’t good news, by the way, just a distraction from Kasich’s decision to sign off on another ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And because we live in the Republic of Gilead now, the ban includes only one limited exception for the health of the patient—but not for cases of rape or incest, or for fetal abnormalities.
The 6 week bill was insane — not only are most women unlikely to know they’re pregnant, but even if they are, they’re unlikely to have any indications of potential problems, and some of the tests that can detect subtle problems take weeks to process…and you’re not going to have them done if you think it’s a routine pregnancy.
The 20 week bill isn’t much better. The standard recommendation for prenatal care is a check up once a month, and that check up is typically a simple pelvic exam and a measurement of external growth — it will detect gross problems in development but not the sneaky ones that will become apparent later. You might get one ultrasound examination, but it depends on your goddamn insurance. If you’re poor or have lousy insurance, you’re going to get nothing but the routine checkup, and we already know what Republicans think of health care.
The first fetal movements the mother can detect are at 13-16 weeks. Say there’s a problem; Mom and her doctor are going to be unconcerned if there is no quickening at the 12 week visit, but the doctor is going to get worried at 16 weeks and might give the pregnancy extra scrutiny, and might ask for extra tests (if the insurance will let you), but the alarm bells might not start ringing loudly until that 20 week visit. I kind of expect Ohio doctors will be putting a lot of extra effort into the 16 week visit from now on, but even then, it’s hard to justify extra tests if there are no apparent negative indications. Maybe Kasich is also investing much, much more money into prenatal care and screening for all Ohioans to catch problems earlier? (Hah. We know that’s not going to happen.)
There are going to be a lot of poor Ohio women — and well-off women whose pregnancies develop late problems — who are going to be told their pregnancy is life-threatening or non-viable, and who are simultaneously told that it can’t be terminated because it’s past the arbitrary deadline John Kasich decided would be the time he could get away with legally forcing them to host a dead or dying fetus. This is extreme ratfuckery. It is heartless and arbitrary. It is the act of an ignorant dumbass and a Republican…but I repeat myself.
I can guess at the political calculus going on right now. Women are less likely to vote for Republicans anyway. Pregnant women are only a small fraction of all women. Pregnant women with serious fetal problems are even rarer, so this is a negligible fraction of the electorate. Meanwhile, white male evangelicals who reflexively reject any expectation of bodily autonomy among their feeemales are the major electoral force that must be appeased. So, balancing intense, acute suffering of a few women vs. fostering the smug piety of Christian men, we know which one wins in Kasich’s mind.
As if that mind can empathize at all with women, that is.