Rape is bad, but not bad enough to justify an abortion, according to a Republican lawmaker in Ohio.
State Rep. Jean Schmidt (right) presented her anti-abortion measure to the Ohio House Government Oversight Committee on Wednesday. The law project, HB 598, is a trigger ban that would ban all abortions in the state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that expanded abortion access nationwide. Similar to other GOP anti-abortion measures Flooding red states right now, Schmidt’s trigger ban doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest.
Schmidt, a former US congresswoman who infamous discussed abortion with a class of elementary school students, defended his decision not to include these exceptions during the committee debate. She argued that a pregnancy from rape is actually a woman’s chance to raise a child, send him to live with a relative or put him up for adoption. This hypothetical child, she argued, could one day cure cancer.
“Rape is a difficult issue and it scars the individual emotionally, in whole or in part, for the rest of their life, just like child abuse. But if a baby is created, it is a human life and that does this mother terminate this pregnancy or not, the scars will not go away, period,” Schmidt said.
“It’s a shame this is happening, but there is an opportunity for this woman – no matter how young or old – to decide what she’s going to do to help this life be a productive human being. … This child can grow up to be something wonderful, a wonderful family member, cure cancer, etc. “, she continued. “It’s not about keeping the abortion alive, it’s about keeping the mother alive, and just because you have emotional scars doesn’t mean you have the right to take a life.”
The bill provides exceptions in cases where the life of the pregnant person is in danger, but even the definition of what constitutes a life-threatening risk was vague and subject to interpretation during the committee debate.
Rep. Richard D. Brown (D) responded to Schmidt’s lack of exceptions with his own hypothesis: a 13-year-old girl who becomes pregnant after being raped by a family member.
“You know, earlier you said every life is important. The life of the 13-year-old girl in my hypothetical is important. … You don’t think that’s going to scare that girl? I think that girl has rights just as much as that zygote has rights under your bill,” Brown said. “This girl has rights and I don’t think we can lose sight of the rights of the person who was violated. … I think you should reconsider and add an abortion exception to this bill.
Schmidt snapped at the question, telling Brown they “fundamentally disagree.” “Let’s not kill the child because someone was awful to that other person,” she later added, referring to a fetus and a 13-year-old pregnant child.
The Ohio lawmaker isn’t the only Republican to introduce draconian abortion bans with few to no exceptions. Abortion opponents have been galvanized by an upcoming Supreme Court ruling that could overturn or eviscerate Roe within months. Many, like Schmidt, are preparing for a post-Roe world by introducing dozens of anti-abortion bills, the majority of which are becoming law.
More and more of these bills are abandoning once-standard language, such as the rape and incest exceptions. Schmidt’s reasoning for not including these exceptions aligns with the thinking of the broader anti-abortion movement.
“At the end of the day, you have two human beings in the equation, and they both deserve our moral attention and legal protection. That includes mother and child,” said John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, a nonprofit that opposes abortion, during a conversation for an article about the lack of exceptions in recent abortion policies.
“And so elective abortion doesn’t actually negate the assault. It doesn’t actually negate the crime,” Seago continued. “It just further violates one of the moral agents, one of the individuals involved .”
Arizona and Florida recently passed 15-week abortion bans with no exceptions for rape or incest, and Oklahoma just passed a near-total abortion ban with a similar lack of exceptions that would make abortion a crime. Even the law currently threatening Roe in the Supreme Court — a 15-week ban in Mississippi in 2018 — makes no exception for rape or incest.