Some state abortion limits allow rape, incest exceptions

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss Roe v. Wade last month and a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was later forced to leave her home state to get an abortion after police say a man was raped have drawn new attention to how of which some state restrictions on abortion allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

The girl’s pregnancy was apparently too advanced to allow an abortion in Ohio, where there are no exceptions for rape and incest, so she had an abortion in Indiana instead.

The dilemma faced by the child and his family, and similar decisions unfolding quietly in communities across the country, have become more mainstream and more consequential following the High Court ruling.

While many states that have abortion restrictions in place provide exceptions for victims of rape or incest, this is not the case in about a dozen states, most located in South.

WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO

The girl’s mother told child protection authorities on June 22 that she had been assaulted, a detective said this week during a court hearing for the 27-year-old man charged with the to have raped. An Indianapolis doctor said the girl had an abortion in Indiana on June 30.

Ohio was among the states that had banned abortion or near-total bans on the books before the Roe v. Wade is returned on June 24. In its wake, an Ohio judge lifted the suspension of the new law, which does not authorize abortions. after detection of cardiac activity.

Ohio abortion law permits abortion when a woman’s life is threatened or she faces a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

AROUND THE COUNTRY

The High Court ruling revived some previously dormant state laws and also put in place newer legislation that was designed to take effect if and when Roe v. Wade was to be invalidated. Litigation across the country is also shaping abortion policy, and state lawmakers and governors are pushing to add or revise existing exceptions.

The changing legal landscape of state abortion restrictions and regulations currently includes places with very few exceptions for abortion, including Texas and Missouri.

In at least three states – Utah, Mississippi and Oklahoma – there are laws stating that a woman who has been raped can only get an abortion if she has made a police report. Unusual among states with rape exceptions, Mississippi does not allow abortion in cases of incest.

LIFE OR HEALTH OF THE MOTHER

The most common exceptions to abortion restrictions relate to cases where a mother’s life or health is seriously threatened. They can take effect when they are necessary to save a mother’s life, when she is at risk of death or serious impairment or if she could suffer irreversible damage to her health.

Some states that restrict abortion allow it if the fetus has a serious or fatal—and confirmed—health abnormality. In some cases, the mother’s medical necessity for an abortion must also be documented, sometimes by multiple health care providers, hospital administrators, or attorneys.

The process of documenting a woman’s medical condition can slow down her care, increasing risk, said Ianthe Metzger of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“That care is happening right now, right now, and the doctor is trained to provide the care,” Metzger said. “They know what to do, they know how to help these patients.”

The Biden administration recently said federal rules require hospitals to perform abortions if necessary to save a mother’s life, even when state law mostly prohibits the procedure.

HOW LAWYERS SEE IT

National Right to Life, a prominent anti-abortion group, supports exceptions only when the mother’s life is in danger, which Ohio allows. The organization’s president, Carol Tobias, said the risk of any 10-year-old giving birth would likely qualify.

“We’re not going to ask a mother to lay down her life for her baby,” Tobias said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever supported a ‘no exceptions’ bill and I don’t know if we would.”

Planned Parenthood officials, however, say they are not aware of any state restrictions on abortion that include an exception that has anything to do with age, and that exceptions drafted by those who oppose abortion are often very narrow by design.

Children have a fraction of all abortions. In Ohio, 52 children under the age of 15 were aborted in 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That figure was 182 in 2010, but like abortions statewide, it has since declined significantly, the report said.

Tobias said that, taken together, abortions to save a mother’s health or life, or after cases of rape or incest, probably account for 1-2% of all abortions in the United States.

Planned Parenthood says these statistics fail to take into account that sexual violence is significantly underreported and that some states do not require or collect data from women about why they requested the procedure.

The list of exceptions to otherwise restrictive anti-abortion laws is growing, Metzger said.

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