Jul 21, 2022 - News

Ohio 10-year-old's abortion isn't a rare exception

Abortions in Ohio among children under 15
Data: Ohio Department of Health;  Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The story of a 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion has drawn international attention to Ohio’s new abortion restrictions.

What’s happening: Every year, hundreds of minors receive abortions statewide, per the latest Ohio Department of Health data.

  • In 2020, 52 Ohioans younger than 15 did — an average of one girl per week.

Why it matters: As elected officials consider stricter abortion bans, the case has reignited debates about exceptions for rape, incest and mental illness. When they reconvene this fall, Ohio lawmakers will consider proposals to ban abortion from the moment of conception with no such exceptions.

  • Currently the state bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, or around six weeks of pregnancy, with an exception to prevent a mother's death or "substantial or irreversible" impairment.
  • The 10-year-old’s case likely wouldn’t have fallen under the current exception, doctors and legal analysts contend, despite continued claims from some elected officials.

Context: It's not just this case. After lawmakers passed the "heartbeat bill" in 2019 that became law last month, CBS News highlighted a case involving an 11-year-old rape victim.

By the numbers: About 3% of people who received abortions in the state in 2020 were minors, down from 6% in 2010.

  • Abortions have declined among all ages since 2010, likely due to fewer unplanned pregnancies and reduced access to the procedure.
  • Youth abortion figures are likely impacted by a state requirement, strengthened in 2011, that parents consent to the procedure.
Abortions in Ohio among children, by age
Data: Ohio Department of Health;  Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

What they're saying: Along with dramatic physical changes and general bodily risk, pregnant youth face stigma and trauma, especially sexual assault victims.

  • "... consider the fear and the confusion that they are experiencing now when they cannot access the health care they need," says pediatric and adolescent gynecologist Anne-Marie Amies Oelschlager in a statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The other side: A fetus conceived through rape should not be punished for "crimes of the father," an Ohio Right to Life spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch.

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