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Abortion protest

Protesters hold placards at a pro-abortion rights rally on May 14, 2022 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo: Whitney Saleski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ohio Court Filings Detail Dozens of Patients Put Under 'Extreme Duress' by Abortion Ban

"In the days after S.B. 23 took effect, we had to cancel over 600 appointments," said the director of one healthcare clinic. "Many patients broke down in tears in our office... some threatened to hurt themselves because they were so distraught."

Julia Conley

Sworn affidavits filed in an Ohio court illustrate the emotional and physical turmoil caused by the state's abortion ban, which garnered national attention in July when it forced a 10-year-old pregnant survivor of rape to leave the state in order to get abortion care.

As the Ohio Capital Journal reported Thursday, abortion providers in the state have seen the effects of Senate Bill 23—which banned nearly all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and is now temporarily blocked until mid-October—on dozens on patients facing fetal abnormalities, cancer diagnoses, and pregnancies resulting from rape.

"We have had at least three patients threaten to commit suicide. Another patient said she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach."

"In the days after S.B. 23 took effect, we had to cancel over 600 appointments," Sharon Liner, medical director of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in her affidavit that was filed as part of Preterm Cleveland v. David Yost. "Many patients broke down in tears in our office. Many patients that we could not reach by phone who came to our health center expecting to have their appointment were extremely upset; some threatened to hurt themselves because they were so distraught."

The court filings describe the cases of more than two dozen patients who learned they would not be able to get the care they needed after S.B. 23 went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Medical providers who are being represented in the case by the ACLU told the stories of at least two more minors who had become pregnant as a result of sexual assault and had to leave the state for care, two women who couldn't legally end their pregnancies and couldn't safely get chemotherapy for cancer due to their pregnancies, and three women whose pregnancies were not viable due to fetal health issues.

Three patients wanted to end their pregnancies due to "debilitating vomiting" that was affecting their health, their ability to go to work or school, or their ability to care for their children, and one patient described in an affidavit was unhoused and unable to leave Ohio to get an abortion—putting her in the position of being forced by the state to become a parent when she had nowhere to live.

"The majority of patients I talk to say that they can't travel out of state to access abortion care," Allegra Pierce, a medical assistant at Preterm Cleveland, said in her affidavit. "Even though many patients can access sources of funding for seeking an abortion, there are so many barriers that make traveling out of state inaccessible for many of our patients, including the cost of travel, child care responsibilities, and difficulty getting time off of work, just to name a few."

Three of the patients threatened to hurt themselves, use dangerous methods to end their pregnancies on their own, or commit suicide when they learned they couldn't get abortion care—many of whom had believed they would still legally be able to have abortions after S.B. 23 went into effect because no cardiac activity had been detected during their initial ultrasounds prior to the Supreme Court decision in June.

"We have had at least three patients threaten to commit suicide," said Liner. "Another patient said she would attempt to terminate her pregnancy by drinking bleach. Another asked how much vitamin C she would need to take to terminate her pregnancy."

The affidavits filed in the medical providers' case against Ohio Attorney General David Yost show how "over and over and over, workers in Ohio abortion clinics described women and girls absolutely losing it when they learned that they didn't have a kind of control over they lives that they thought they did," said Ohio Capital Journal reporter Marty Schladen.

Schladen reported on the affidavits as Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, wrote a memo warning that the 15-week federal abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier this month would cause a "nationwide healthcare crisis, imperiling the health and lives of women in all 50 states."

Klein pointed to examples from states that have enacted abortion bans, including Texas.

"Providers have sent home patients whose health is in jeopardy, unable to provide care under the law, and only provided appropriate treatment once they returned with signs of a life-threatening condition like sepsis," Klein wrote, adding that medical professionals have said abortion bans "threaten the very integrity of the medical profession by interfering with providers' duty of care."

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