Coalition of More Than 1,000 Ohio Doctors Releases Open Letter of Dissent Decrying 'Roe' Reversal, Ohio's Abortion Ban

Ohio's "Heartbeat Bill" currently bans abortions in Ohio after six weeks of gestation.

click to enlarge Coalition of More Than 1,000 Ohio Doctors Releases Open Letter of Dissent Decrying 'Roe' Reversal, Ohio's Abortion Ban
Photo: Mary LeBus

A coalition of more than 1,000 Ohio physicians published an open letter of dissent regarding the reversal of Roe v. Wade and Ohio's institution of the six-week "heartbeat bill" abortion ban.

"We are working collaboratively, with a mission to unify, represent, and mobilize Ohio physicians, advocating for all people's right to evidence-based reproductive medical care, including abortion,"  Lauren Beene, MD, and Marcela Azevedo, MD, of the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights group wrote in a statement. "The wide circulation of our Letter of Dissent is the first of many advocacy activities to counter the 'heartbeat bill,' a ban that is not based on medical evidence."

Less than an hour after it was announced that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a motion to lift an injunction against Ohio's "heartbeat bill."

And by that same evening, the bill — officially called the "Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act" — became law.  

The law bans abortions in Ohio after six weeks of gestation. Previously, Ohioans had up to 20 weeks to seek an abortion.

It is called the "Heartbeat Protection Act" because physicians or other providers are required to determine if there is a detectable fetal heartbeat before conducting an abortion. If there is, the procedure cannot move forward.

Physicians are required to record and report the medical condition necessitating each patient's abortion and the "medical rationale" behind their decision. That documentation must be kept by the doctor for at least seven years.

Doctors or providers who perform an abortion in violation of the law can be charged with a fifth-degree felony.

The letter, wholly worth your time, is published in full below.

A Message to our Patients on the Loss of Reproductive Rights Dear Patients,

We are physicians in the state of Ohio, gravely concerned for the well-being of our citizens, particularly of women and pregnant persons. With the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and the enactment of Ohio House Bill 258/Senate Bill 23 (aka the “heartbeat bill”), it has become painfully clear that women are now losing bodily autonomy, basic human rights, and access to life-saving medical care.

We stand steadfast in our support for the sanctity and privacy of the patient-physician relationship. Withholding treatment until a preventable medical emergency occurs is antithetical to our roles as healthcare workers. We wholeheartedly believe that a woman’s mental health is essential in the discussions regarding medical necessity and emergency; suicide is a leading cause of death amongst women of child-bearing age. A government that takes away the freedom of women to access critical medical care and threatens physicians with criminal penalties for upholding their oath is un-American.

What defines and necessitates abortion is nuanced. Women may require abortion in order to undergo life-preserving treatments such as chemotherapy. Women may choose to have an abortion to terminate an unviable pregnancy, and to be spared the emotional anguish and physical threat of carrying a fetus that cannot survive outside the womb. A woman (including a child or an adolescent minor) may choose to have an abortion after being raped and impregnated. A woman may choose to have an abortion simply to protect her future. No explanation should be required for a choice that allows a woman to enjoy the same status in society as a man: freedom to preserve her health and wellbeing.

The decision to perform an abortion should be left solely to a woman and her physician. Doctors are guided by evidence-based medicine and are bound by our commitment to do no harm. The “heartbeat bill” is an intrusion of government on personal autonomy and will directly lead to oppression, illness, and death of countless women. This will disproportionately affect women of color and individuals without the financial means to seek other options and will perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Anyone who supports this legislation is complicit in the greatest assault on women’s rights in our lifetime.

As physicians of many specialties, we are calling on Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, as well as all elected and appointed government officials in the state of Ohio, to protect the lives of women and persons capable of becoming pregnant. We call on other physicians to uphold their duty to their patients and on our patients to organize for their personal bodily autonomy.

We demand that Ohio House Bill 258/Senate Bill 23 be repealed. We ask our elected officials to defend the separation of church and state, to support reproductive autonomy, and to respect our basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

One Thousand Ohio Physicians

A portion of this story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper Cleveland Scene.

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