ICYMI: Ohio Capital Journal: Ohio AG’s Refusal to Guide Doctors Facing Felony Criminal Charges Is A Massive Failure of Duty
July 21, 2022
“Ohio’s Attorney General has failed the duty of his office to provide legal clarity.”
Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, an Ohio Capital Journal opinion column took Dave Yost to task for failing to provide legal clarity for Ohio physicians looking for guidance on the law after Yost rushed to implement a six-week abortion ban mere hours after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Doctors say they don’t know if a young patient automatically qualifies for an abortion in Ohio because Yost keeps talking out of both sides of his mouth. Making matters worse, many physicians admit they are worried about losing their license if they provide critical healthcare to women and young girls if procedures are later found to be illegal.
Yost couldn’t wait to implement the extreme six-week abortion ban, but when it comes to issuing guidance or going on record on the consequences of this radical law, he’s nowhere to be found.
“At what age does pregnancy no longer qualify as an automatic medical emergency, in Attorney General Yost’s legal opinion? Doctors must know, because doctors don’t have the luxury of taking a guess here. They not only face felony criminal charges as a consequence for the decisions they make, they also face civil liability from lawsuits, and the potential loss of their medical licenses. Their freedom and their entire livelihoods as medical professionals are on the line. This is not a guessing game of chance. And it’s not a political football, ” writes Ohio Capital Journal editor David DeWitt.
Read more from Ohio Capital Journal HERE and below:
- When Ohio Republicans created law putting health care professionals under the threat of felony criminal charges for providing abortion care, they made no exceptions for rape or incest, including in cases of children who’ve been sexually assaulted.
- In an analysis, the non-partisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission said the law makes no age-based exceptions. “Ohio’s abortion prohibition applies regardless of the circumstances of conception or the age of the mother,” it said.
- That conflicts with what Yost is now claiming. But between April 2019 and July 2022, Yost — Ohio’s chief legal officer as attorney general — declined to offer legally vet and then offer clear guidance on the ban for health care providers. This week, his office doubled down on its refusal to provide such guidance.
- “Please share with me where we are required to put out guidance on certain laws,” Ohio Attorney General spokesperson Bethany McCorkle said when asked why the AG’s Office hasn’t put out guidance for doctors facing the risk of felony criminal charges for doing their jobs. This, from the office that regularly puts out guidance on things such as senior citizens avoiding telephone scams.
- Two OB-GYNs said that from a medical standpoint, there’s nothing that would make 10-year-olds as a group automatically eligible for abortion exceptions under the Ohio law for medical emergencies. Such pregnancies are risky, they told the Capital Journal, but so are a lot of others, for patients of all ages.
- In his position as attorney general, there are substantial steps Yost could take to clear up the confusion he helped create — and the law more generally, said Maria Phillis, a Northeast Ohio OB-GYN.
- He “could issue guidance to the state and its agencies and even the general public to say, ‘Hey, this is actually how this law should be applied,’” she told the Capital Journal. “So if he thinks just being 10 years old is a sufficient medical necessity to require an abortion, he can make that statement and make that clarifying guidance.
- “He’s the attorney general. He can say, ‘We don’t think we should prosecute anyone in an abortion of a 10-year-old.’ He can say, ‘I don’t think we should prosecute any physician for making a decision under this law.’ But he’s not doing that.
- Despite being asked several times, aides to Yost and Gov. DeWine, a former attorney general, haven’t said how old their bosses think a person has to be before the new law requires them to have their rapists’ babies.
- At what age does pregnancy no longer qualify as an automatic medical emergency, in Attorney General Yost’s legal opinion? Doctors must know, because doctors don’t have the luxury of taking a guess here. They not only face felony criminal charges as a consequence for the decisions they make, they also face civil liability from lawsuits, and the potential loss of their medical licenses. Their freedom and their entire livelihoods as medical professionals are on the line. This is not a guessing game of chance. And it’s not a political football.
- This is a law he moved to implement almost immediately. But in three years since the law was made, in 11 weeks since the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked, and in the nearly four weeks since he had the law implemented, Ohio’s Attorney General has failed the duty of his office to provide legal clarity.
- Instead, he’s only kicked more mud into the waters. This is professional malfeasance, and a complete abdication of his responsibilities. Ohio’s abortion ban is bad law. It always was bad law. The terrible consequences were warned about by doctors and experts, and that testimony was ignored by Ohio Republicans.
- Now the consequences are playing out with devastating impacts on people’s lives.
- But this is the law Ohio Republican lawmakers made, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed, and Ohio Republican Attorney General Dave Yost implemented. They do not get to shirk responsibility. They do not get to gaslight. The pain and suffering of this bad, thoughtless law is on their heads.
- Doctors should not be criminalized for providing critical health care to their patients. But now they’re forced to navigate that looming threat every day.
- The very least Yost could do at this point is provide clarity to the health care professionals he’s helped turn into potential felons. But instead, at a crucial juncture, Yost is failing profoundly to perform the essential functions of his elected office.