Dave Yost Either Doesn’t Understand the Law or Is Pretending Not To
July 15, 2022
Columbus, OH — Mere hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Dave Yost rushed to implement Ohio’s extreme six-week abortion ban, one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the country. Days later, he went on national TV to do two things: 1. question the story of a 10-year-old rape victim that turned out to be true and 2. assert without a doubt that even if the story were true, the victim could have gotten an abortion in Ohio.
Now legal experts, doctors and even Ohio’s own Legislative Service Commission (which helps state lawmakers draft laws) have weighed in on that assertion and only one thing is crystal clear: Dave Yost has been wrong about a lot of things this week, and that likely includes the law he helped put into place.
Read more below:
“The conservative effort to cast a story about a pregnant 10-year-old Ohio rape victim as a hoax has now fallen apart, with confirmation of the case arriving Wednesday. While some merely noted the initial report hadn’t been confirmed, several conservative media figures and Republican politicians went significantly further in casting it as a dirty trick meant to make the GOP’s post-Roe v. Wade laws look bad; high on that list was Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R).
“But as attention now turns to the reality of the case and what it means, something else Yost claimed Monday on Fox News looms large: that the girl didn’t actually have to leave Ohio to seek the abortion in Indiana, as she reportedly did.
“Yost’s appeared to be arguing that Ohio’s law — which bans almost all abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks — isn’t actually so stringent that it would actually force a 10-year-old rape victim to carry a child to term.
“Yost’s meaning wasn’t entirely clear. Some took his comment as claiming Ohio has a rape exception in its abortion ban; it clearly and unambiguously does not. The applicable law allows abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“Indeed, the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission has reportedly determined that such circumstances don’t automatically qualify for an exception. Chris Geidner shared a letter that Yost’s 2022 Democratic opponent received from an analyst from the commission, Amy Archer. Archer in the letter addresses whether ‘minor victims of sexual assault are able to receive abortions within Ohio after six weeks gestation.’
“‘No,’ she reportedly said, ‘Ohio’s abortion prohibition applies regardless of the circumstances of conception or the age of the mother.’
“Yost on Thursday afternoon shared a backgrounder that explained Ohio’s abortion exceptions and gestured toward the second exception. But his office has yet to directly explain how it applies to a 10-year-old rape victim.”
“Less than 24 hours later, Yost’s doubts were proven to be unfounded when The Columbus Dispatch reported that a 27-year-old man had been arrested on charges of raping the child. But in addition to expressing unfounded doubts, Yost appears to have made at least two serious factual errors in that three-minute Fox interview.
“Yost also claimed that if a 10-year-old gets pregnant in Ohio, she can still get an abortion under exceptions regarding the health of the mother.
“[T]wo Ohio OB-GYNs — doctors who are required to follow the new law — disputed that analysis on Thursday. The dispute appears to hinge on who knows more about the risks of pregnancy — Yost, or doctors who care for pregnant patients.
“One instance under which the law says abortions are allowed after six weeks is if there’s a ‘medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.’
“The other exception is if there’s a medically diagnosed condition that can ‘cause the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.’
“The youngest mothers are at higher risk for early births, restricted fetal growth, and a condition known as preeclampsia. They’re also at higher risk for postpartum depression — although the Ohio law expressly says it “does not include (an exception for) a condition related to the woman’s mental health.”
Anna Staver & Haley BeMiller
“A 10-year-old Ohio girl who crossed state lines for an abortion has raised a lot of questions, including whether she qualified for a legal exemption to prevent irreversible injury or death.
“Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told Fox News that, in his legal opinion, ‘she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment’ because her age puts her at greater risk.
“Republicans who control the state Legislature didn’t include exemptions for rape or incest. But an abortion after six weeks could be legal if it prevented ‘the death of a pregnant woman’ or ‘a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,’ according to a non-partisan analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
“The law provides no path to abortion care for those experiencing mental health challenges. Nor does it provide one for minor victims of sexual assault who are more than six weeks pregnant, according to an LSC email obtained by the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau.
“[Rep. Beth] Liston is a pediatrician who worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and now teaches clinical internal medicine and pediatrics. She said children younger than 15 have increased risks for potentially life-threatening pregnancy complications, but that doesn’t mean those conditions will develop.
“‘Exemptions for the life of the woman in Ohio are grey, and the law is authored by people without medical knowledge to consider all of the situations which can occur in pregnancy,’ Liston said.
“That uncertainty highlights a key criticism of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban: Doctors are no longer sure what they can legally do in the exam room.
“Opponents say this creates fear that could cause providers to second-guess decisions or err too far on the side of caution.
“‘It leaves a lot of room for interpretation,’ said Dr. Jason Sayat, an obstetrician–gynecologist in Columbus. ‘These restrictions that have been put into place by lawmakers who really have not looked at medical, evidence-based practice that we apply in the real world…that makes it difficult for us not to be cautious or limiting.’
Dr. Catherine Romanos, a family physician who provides abortions at Women’s Med Center near Dayton, said she would likely tell a 10-year-old who had been raped that it’s unsafe to carry the pregnancy.
“But an attorney for National Right to Life told Politico the girl should have attempted to carry to term. And the model legislation they’re offering conservative state legislatures wouldn’t grant her one either.
‘She would have had the baby,’ Jim Bopp told Politico. ‘And as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.’