You’ve probably seen people on social media sharing harsh articles like this one titled, “Anti-Abortion Extremism Goes Full Psycho“. You should know what this bill says. Many people are stating Ohio House Bill 413 would require doctors to attempt reimplantation of ectopic pregnancies, which is currently impossible, and is therefore designed to put OBs in jail for something completely out of their control.
Unfortunately, having carefully read this section of the bill, we don’t blame people for thinking that, because the language of the bill is incredibly vague.
The text of the bill, from page 184, reads: “Takes all POSSIBLE steps to preserve the life of the unborn child, while preserving the life of the woman. Such steps include, IF APPLICABLE, attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman’s uterus.” [Emphasis added.]
We see multiple problems with this language.
First, what does “possible” mean? If some pro-life lawmakers (wrongly) think that there’s a 1% chance of survival if you move the embryo from the fallopian tube to the uterus, which is greater than the 0% chance an embryo would have as a result of even a salpingectomy (the least controversial medical procedure used to intervene in an ectopic pregnancy), then couldn’t it be argued that every ectopic pregnancy surgery should be a reimplantation effort? Maybe that’s not the intent of the lawmaker, but it’s far from clear.
Secondly, what does “if applicable” mean? When is it applicable to attempt an impossible reimplantation? Is it only “applicable” if the embryo is still alive when the surgery happens? Or is it only “applicable” if the doctor deems it possible? Maybe the intent of the lawmaker was just to leave open the possibility of reimplantation attempts if the technique is ever developed with future technology. But again, that’s far from clear.
So, what would happen if this bill passed, besides it being stopped by an immediate injunction since it violates Roe vs. Wade and Casey vs. Planned Parenthood? Most likely, some OB would get dragged into court by the state to enforce this bill, and the OB will attempt to prove emphatically that reimplantation isn’t possible.
But just because OBs probably wouldn’t go to jail doesn’t mean this is a good, well-written law. What are the drafters trying to do? The charitable interpretation is that the drafters are attempting to anticipate and promote research into the feasibility of doing reimplantation with current or (more likely) future medical technologies. The problem is, they’re doing it in a totally sloppy way. At minimum, it makes it look like pro-life people are ignorant of the current state of medical science and think that reimplanting ectopic pregnancies is possible right now. It’s also bad if pro-life legislators pass a law that would attempt to jail an OB for an impossible procedure and only fail because the OB shows in court that it’s impossible.
It is important for pro-life advocates to be clear about scientific facts because the movement is often rhetorically painted as being “anti-science.” Understandably, many pro-lifers have been concerned that this bill lends strength to that narrative. What do you think?