Miscarriage Care Will Remain Legal in Ohio, Even if Issue 1 Fails.

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Miscarriage is a traumatic end to pregnancy experienced by 10-15% of all pregnant women. Generally, once a miscarriage has been diagnosed, women are given three options: natural delivery, medically-induced delivery or surgical delivery. There can be complications, though, demanding immediate medical attention. 

After the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022, there has been widespread confusion over what miscarriage care entails, who is permitted to provide it, and whether strict abortion laws will limit the vital, life-saving care women need when experiencing miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. As the State of Ohio prepares to vote on Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 7 ballot, these questions have become even more important to women and their loved ones. So, let’s begin.

What is Miscarriage Care?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a miscarriage is defined as the loss of a child before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most of the children who have passed away in miscarriage, did not survive because their bodies didn’t develop properly. Roughly half to two-thirds of miscarriages in the first trimester happen because of extra or missing chromosomes (Mayo Clinic). Once a miscarriage has occurred and the baby has passed away in the womb, women usually have around three weeks before delivery occurs (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).

There are a variety of delivery options, as well as complications, that can occur for women experiencing a miscarriage. Some complications can be life-threatening if immediate medical attention is not sought out. Catholic hospitals across the State of Ohio have and will continue to be a constant source of miscarriage care for women, providing the vital care and attention women need in their darkest hours.

Some hospitals will refer women to miscarriage counselors who help them understand what has happened, that it is not their fault, what the delivery process is like, and what they can expect in the days, weeks and months to come when grieving the loss of their child. Some of these counselors will even assist in funeral arrangements, like Donna Murphy, founder of Heaven’s Gain

What is Issue 1 and What Does it Say About Miscarriage Care?

Issue 1 is a proposed amendment to the State of Ohio constitution that would remove vital healthcare protections for women and children, and enable abortion to up birth through the enshrinement of a healthcare provider’s right to determine fetal viability in the womb. The amendment includes “miscarriage care” as a right for “individuals,” however, such a right already exists in Ohio.

The State of Ohio’s definition of abortion can be found in Ohio Revised Code (2919.11): abortion is, “the purposeful termination of a human pregnancy…with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus or embryo.”

Since miscarriage clearly does not fall under that definition, women across Ohio can be assured that they will continue to have healthcare options for miscarriage care in the State of Ohio.

The passing or failure of Issue 1 will have no effect on the care a pregnant woman receives when her life is in danger, even if the treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child. There is a fundamental difference between an elective abortion and the care provided after a miscarriage. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, the life-affirming option is to surgically remove the mother’s fallopian tube in which the embryo has implanted. No law restricts this care in Ohio or any other state in the country.

If the Heartbeat Law is Reinstated, Will It Affect Care for Miscarriages or Ectopic Pregnancies?

In 2019, the Governor of Ohio signed the Heartbeat Bill into law. The bill remained in place for a short time before being constitutionally challenged. It is currently not in effect while it is under review. Since the law already excludes any restrictions on miscarriage care (see, “What is Issue 1 and What Does it Say About Miscarriage Care?” above), this vital care will not be affected if the Heartbeat Bill is reinstated.

The bill also defines an exception for ectopic pregnancies in ORC 2919.191, stating that the law’s restrictions “apply only to intrauterine pregnancies, i.e., only when implantation is in the uterus, not in the fallopian tubes, as occurs in an ectopic or tubal pregnancy.” So, even if the Heartbeat Bill is re-enacted in the future, healthcare for mothers experiencing ectopic pregnancies will not be affected. 

What if the Woman’s Life is at Stake?

Many OB-GYN’s agree that if a woman’s life is at stake during pregnancy, the safest thing to do for both mother and child is always to deliver the baby alive preterm. Preterm delivery provides a safer environment for the woman to receive the critical care she needs, while enabling medical professionals to provide advanced, life-saving care to her newborn child. It is never safer for a woman to have an abortion when her life is at stake, since the abortion requires the surgical dismemberment and forcible removal of the child, which can lead to further complications.

As far as Ohio law is concerned, regardless of whether Issue 1 passes or not, all abortion-restricting laws have an exception for women whose lives are at stake “to prevent the death of the pregnant women or to avoid a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” (ORC 2919.16).