A study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that prior to the heartbeat bill taking effect in Ohio, 89% of pregnant people seeking an abortion had the procedure after six weeks.
The study examined more than 1,100 abortion patients in Ohio from 2020 to 2021. While the majority of patients were able to determine they were pregnant before six weeks, about 25% discovered the pregnancy after.
Abigail Norris Turner, lead author of the study, is a professor in the colleges of medicine and public health at Ohio State University. She said low income and less educated patients were more likely to learn of their pregnancies later than others and, as a result, terminated their pregnancies later.
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“So just extending that out logically… people in those conditions, because of the abortion ban that we currently have… they don’t have any option for legal abortion if they don’t even know that they’re pregnant,” Norris Turner said.
The median time of discovering pregnancy was just under five weeks. This would leave seven days for patients to get an abortion under the current six-week ban.
After discovering the pregnancy, researchers found the median time it took to complete the procedure was 22 days. The study attributed the delay to mandatory waiting periods, staff shortages and reduced clinic availability, and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Norris Turner said this means that even if a patient knew they were pregnant before six weeks, due to scheduling issues or other conflicts, it may not affect their ability to get an abortion under Ohio’s current abortion laws.
“A six-week ban, it doesn’t just affect people who discover pregnancy… later,” Norris Turner said. “Even for the people who discover pregnancy or detect their pregnancy early, many of those people have their care disrupted as well.”
Abortion bills in Ohio
Currently abortion is illegal in Ohio after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is usually at six weeks. The only exception is in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
But lawmakers have begun drafting and proposing bills that would completely ban the procedure. State Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, introduced House Bill 704 which would define personhood at conception and outlaw abortion, expect in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
Many of the bans being proposed do not include exceptions for rape or incest.
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Norris Turner said she wasn’t sure what pregnant people in Ohio who are seeking abortion will do now with the ban in place.
“Many people will go to Illinois or to Pennsylvania,” Norris Turner said. “But it’s really unclear as various legislators come together now and consider different legislation, including Ohio actually, how the current landscape will change. It’s really not clear.”