Ohio state Rep. Jean Schmidt calls pregnancies from rape an ‘opportunity’ for victims

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An Ohio lawmaker proposing a near-total abortion ban was given a hypothetical: A 13-year-old girl is raped and becomes pregnant as a result. Would the Republican’s bill force that teenager to have her rapist’s baby?

Yes—and the resulting child would be an “opportunity,” state Rep. Jean Schmidt said this week.

“It is a shame that it happens, but there’s an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is, to make a determination about what she’s going to do to help that life be a productive human being,” she said.

Schmidt made the comment while testifying Wednesday before a committee about her legislation, House Bill 598, which would ban abortions, except those needed to end life-threatening pregnancies. Schmidt’s bill is part of a wave of antiabortion legislation cropping up in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country as conservatives anticipate a Supreme Court decision that would overturn or weaken Roe v. wade — an increasingly likely prospect as the court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, considers a case about Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, The Washington Post reported.

“Lawmakers are waiting with bated breath,” Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United For Life, a national antiabortion organization, told The Post earlier this month. “Are we expecting to see Roe overturned or at least minimized? Yes. We are expecting a good to great outcome.”

Tracking new action on abortion legislation across the states

That includes Schmidt. Her testimony before Ohio’s House Government Oversight Committee remained collegial through most of Wednesday’s hearing, although lawmakers’ passions flared while discussing her bill’s lack of a rape exception. Her colleague Rep. Richard Brown (D) started the discussion by proposing the hypothetical example of a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a rapist and giving his interpretation of Schmidt’s legislation: It would require that teenager to carry a “felon’s fetus” to term, no matter the emotional or psychological trauma that would cause her.

“Is that right?” Brown asked.

“Rape is a difficult issue, and it emotionally scars the individual … for the rest of their life, just as child abuse does,” Schmidt replied. “But if a baby is created, it is a human life, and, whether that mother ends that pregnancy or not, the scars will not go away — period.”

Schmidt’s answer did not satisfy Brown.

“I think this girl has rights, every bit as much as this zygote has rights under your bill. This girl has rights, and I don’t believe we can lose sight of the rights of the person who was raped.”

Schmidt did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post early Friday.

Her bill would make performing an abortion in Ohio a fourth-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 1½ years in state prison. The bill would also criminalize the use of abortion medication. For someone to obtain a legal abortion, two doctors who don’t work together would have to agree that the procedure was necessary to prevent death or “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant individual.” But as Democratic lawmakers pointed out at Wednesday’s hearing, following the letter of Schmidt’s law would provide doctors only with an “affirmative defense” they could use to fight criminal charges after they had been filed.

Republicans enacting a wave of new abortion restrictions

Schmidt’s bill is one of 22 recently introduced in legislatures around the country, including five other “trigger bans” — preemptive strikes that would take effect immediately or soon after a Supreme Court decision overturned Roe, according to The Post’s abortion legislation tracker. At least a dozen states had already enacted such bans before this year’s legislative session.

Other efforts to restrict abortion include prohibiting the procedures after 15 weeks and enacting “Texas-style bans,” so named because legislators there empowered private citizens to sue abortion providers — a legal strategy designed to evade action by courts, which have historically struck down similar laws.

Mich. GOP governor candidate said rape victims shouldn’t have abortions: ‘Baby inside them may be the next president’

Republican politicians have a history of making inflammatory statements about rape. Last month, Robert Regan, a Republican running for a seat in the Michigan legislature, said that he instructs his daughters to “just lie back and enjoy it” if they get raped. He was trying to make an analogy to abandoning efforts to decertify the 2020 presidential election results. In 2019, Missouri lawmaker Barry Hovis talked about how most sexual assaults were “consensual rapes” while debating antiabortion legislation, although he later told The Post he misspoke. And in 2012, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s campaign for US Senate tanked after Akin, when asked about his opposition to abortion, said rape-induced pregnancies were “really rare,” adding that “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Twelve states have abortion ‘trigger laws.’ What are they?

At Wednesday’s hearing, Schmidt rejected her colleague’s suggestion that she add a rape exception to her legislation, saying they “fundamentally disagree.” She acknowledged that Brown’s hypothetical 13-year-old rape victim would be traumatized and had rights. But, she added, “so does the baby inside of her.”

“Just because you have emotional scars doesn’t give you the right to take the life.”

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