Medical professionals at an Ohio hospital had reportedly cited the state’s abortion laws for delaying health care. However, Ohio law does not prevent doctors from taking action when a patient’s life or health is at risk.
According to Ohio Revised Code Section 2919.193, “Division (A) of this section does not apply to a physician who performs or induces the abortion if the physician believes that a medical emergency, as defined in section 2919.16 of the Revised Code, exists that prevents compliance with that division.”
Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) Director of Communications Elizabeth Whitmarsh said she filed a complaint with the State Medical Board over a case that involved a woman from Washington, D.C. who had a miscarriage in September when Ohio’s six-week abortion law was in place.
“A complaint was filed with the State Medical Board to investigate further what took place and ensure that they are held accountable. Women should feel safe inside every Ohio Hospital, doctor’s office, and urgent care. Our deepest sympathy and prayers go to this family,” Whitmarsh said.
ORTL learned of the situation through a story published by National Public Radio (NPR). Christina Zielke, 33, from Washington D.C., was visiting Northeast Ohio in September when she had a miscarriage that became life-threatening.
The report says that the medical professionals at University Hospitals TriPoint Medical Center in Painesville refused to treat her, needing “proof” that her unborn child who had already passed away had “no fetal development,” despite confirming on an ultrasound that there was no heartbeat. Upon discharge, her symptoms had continued to worsen.
“Based on the reporting by NPR, the hospital nonchalantly checked her vitals, saw that she had been profusely bleeding for hours with no signs of stopping, and still found it reasonable to discharge her. This is wholly unacceptable and does not meet Ohio’s standards of care,” Whitmarsh said.
The hospital has not commented on the situation yet however, ORTL says that the doctors who put that patient in that condition were violating the law.
When the incident occurred, the state had a law known as the “heartbeat bill” in effect, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers passed the bill into law in 2019 and went into effect the same day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24. In mid-September, a judge in Hamilton County blocked the law. Ohio’s Republican Attorney General Dave Yost has begun the appeals process, and the case will likely go to the state supreme court.
Medical professionals who violate the law face fifth-degree felony charges, up to a year in prison, loss of their medical license, and fines up to $20,000.
“The lack of proper health care this woman experienced is appalling and should upset every Ohioan. Any woman who experiences a miscarriage should be treated with urgency and competency, not apathy,” Whitmarsh said.
Pro-choice activists such as ProChoice Ohio have concerns that although ORTL filled this complaint, there could be a conflict of interests, as Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis sits on the state’s medical board.
Ohio legislators are looking to insert language into the heartbeat bill to further define what is allowable for medical professionals.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters on Wednesday that he is suggesting lawmakers make these clarifications.
“We think we can make the heartbeat bill better by getting better definitions, things I think that weren’t really contemplated when it was passed a few years ago, and we’ll also have additional action in that bill regarding foster care adoption, crisis pregnancy centers, a whole number of other things,” Huffman said.
– – –
Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]