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2 Fetuses Called As Witnesses in Ohio Court. Say What?

Lissa Rankin's picture

abortion protest

Yes, you heard me right. I just read that two fetuses were called as witnesses in an Ohio courtroom. It sounds laughable, doesn’t it? I mean, seriously. How can a fetus be a witness?

But this is no laughing matter.

These fetuses little heart beats offered “expert testimony” before the Health Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives last Wednesday. They were shown to legislators in a crowded courtroom via ultrasound projector so everyone could see and hear their beating hearts as testimony for what they are calling “The Heartbeat Bill,” or HB 125.

HB 125, a blatant attempt to overthrow Roe vs. Wade, would ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat could be detected (which usually happens at about 5 ½ weeks of gestation, only 3 ½ weeks after conception actually occurs). Many people don’t even know they’re pregnant at this point, since they may only be a few days late for their period.

This bill is just the latest in a slew of Republican-driven attempts to undermine a woman’s right to choose. I also read about another bill, HR 3 (the “No Taxpayer Paying For Funding Of Abortion” bill) threatens to pull all public funding for abortion, including having Medicaid pay for pregnancy termination (if a woman keeps the baby, however, Medicaid will cover her much more expensive pregnancy.)

The scariest part of HR 3 is that it makes an exception for women who have been forcibly raped. Date rape doesn’t count. Neither does statutory rape, even if you’re twelve and some 25 year old dude knocked you up. But if you’ve been drugged, bound, and held at gunpoint while whipped, you can get your abortion.

Since when did we start redefining rape in such demeaning ways?

What Is Happening To Women’s Rights?

When I read about things like this, I feel sort of lost. In fact, it makes me want to defect and move to Canada. What is the matter with us? Why do we feel the need to question a woman’s right to choose in this way?

If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one. Period. But DO NOT make me live in a country where the government gets to decide whether I keep my baby, even if I’ve been non-forcibly raped. Do not make me live in a country where fetuses are called as witnesses in court.  Do not force me to raise my daughter in a society that devalues her, that diminishes her right to make choices about her own body, that wants to control her just because she has a uterus.

I’ve told you before how conflicted I feel about abortion, as an OB/GYN and as a woman. I’ve told you how I’ve made peace with my own values regarding this issue. So I won’t repeat myself.

But suffice it to say that we must, simply MUST, keep the government from making choices about whether a woman must become a mother. Nobody has the right to make that decision but the woman herself. Nobody.

What do you think? Does this rile you up? Do you agree with these bills? How will you vote?

Standing for women everywhere,

Lissa Rankin, MD

Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.commotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Kristina's picture

This opens the doors to persecute women and strip civil rights

If the law considers a fetus a baby at 5 1/2 weeks and the woman doesn't know she's pregnant yet and participates in activities that could harm the fetus, why couldn't she be prosecuted for causing harm to a baby? What a woman might call her rightful business, say, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, kickboxing class, working as a policewoman or serving in the armed forces, all pose a risk to a baby she doesn't even know she's carrying. Which means any miscarriage due in any part to her normal activities could be prosecuted as manslaughter. At this point, the only way to protect fetuses from the women who might act in a manner potentially harmful to babies they don't know they're carrying is to forbid them from participating in those activities.

We can talk all we like about saving innocent lives. But think long and hard about being told you cannot be served that martini, cannot take skydiving lessons, cannot be a firefighter because you might be pregnant and not know it.

Pro-Women's picture

These are exactly the type of

These are exactly the type of questions I was asked in Mexico when having a miscarriage - what did I eat? drink? What activities did I participate in in the last week? What did I insert into myself? These were asked by doctors at the hospital! I felt like a suspect in the hands of health care providers. Unless there are ways to protect women in such cases, the same could happen here in the US. With doctors playing criminal detective with patients. And that's a role I can't imagine too many OBGYNs want to be in.

Mom of 4's picture

It's not all about "me me me"

Yup...you would have to sacrifice yourself for your child. You would have to adjust your lifestyle for NINE whole MONTHS!!! OMG!!! Horrors!! You'd have to consider your child's welfare before your own!!What a thought! It's fine to pull fuzzy factoids from edge and howl about the outlandish extremes...but reality? The 'norm'?? It's far different, far calmer & far more realistic.


Kristina's picture

I'm not talking about

I'm not talking about changing your lifestyle once you know you are pregnant. I am talking about being denied the right to choose that lifestyle because, as women, at any point we may already be pregnant and not know it. The only way to prevent women from inadvertently harming fetuses we don't know we're carrying is to prohibit us from participating in hazardous behavior.

(If a fetus becomes a legal entity at 5 1/2 weeks--too early for a woman to know that she is pregnant--her activities may harm the baby she doesn't know she has--therefore the only way to keep the baby from harm is to prohibit the woman from participating in those activities--just to be safe.)

You make good points; once you move forward with the adventure of pregnancy, I think most women are happy to make those changes for their baby for 9 months. And I'm happy that being a mom of four has worked out for you, I really am. I am in no way against motherhood. I am against legalities that have good intentions, but leave loopholes to not only prosecute women for miscarriages, but may result in our gender losing the right to choose our lifestyle.

Mom of 4's picture


Kudo's to you for standing up & speaking the truth. It frustrates me to see people crying and forking over hard earned cash at ads for the ASPCA, 'Save the Baby Seals' & dozens of others critters while happily murdering their own offspring. While saving animals is a kind thing to do...they seem to have lost sight of their own humanity. What would happen if they had that much compassion for their own offspring by spending that amount of time & energy creating options for supposedly 'unwanted' babies.

But they won't...because it's their choice to do murder. They throw the 'rape & incest' routine around knowing full well it's a infintsmal part of conception...and kill the baby for the sin of the parent. It is, after all, their choice to have sex in 99.99% of conception...they simply don't want to deal with the repercussions or the responsibility of their actions. But...such is society today.

Mom of 4

Anonymous's picture


Sorry! I was responding to Living Authentically's comment that pulling federal funding from abortions seems authentic since it doesn't force taxpayers to pay for something they don't agree with. I don't agree with war, but my tax dollars go towards paying for it. I'm sure there are many other examples of the this. I believe a woman's right to chose should not be based upon her financial status. I don't believe it is ever done lightly, or without deeply considering all options, but a woman knows what is right for herself better than anyone else.

Anonymous's picture


On that bases, I should refuse to pay taxes to pay for war.

Shira Nahari's picture

Protesting HB 123

I learned a long time ago: don't bitch, act! So I have just written letters to the editors of umpteen Ohio Newspapers stating strong reasons why HB 125 must not be passed. Thanks for alerting me to this issue, Lissa!

Kristina's picture

Women aren't cornfields

There are many things that our tax dollars support that we don't agree on. There are also a handful of events that our taxes fund that result in the loss of innocent life, like war and the death penalty for wrongly-convicted felons. Using terrorist rhetoric to demand that tax dollars get reshuffled from Medicare and Planned Parenthood only makes it more difficult to secure the right for women to choose. And regardless of your personal opinion on the matter, you deserve the right to make that decision.

Lissa Rankin's picture

oh Pro- Women

I'm SO SO sorry you had to endure that experience. Just breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing.
With love

Pro-Women's picture

I have also lived in Mexico,

I have also lived in Mexico, where abortion is illegal, and have seen the repercussions of that. There are effects that go beyond the realm of simply criminalizing abortion.

Example from personal experience... My husband and I suffered a miscarriage while there. Meds like Misoprostol, are not available, due to their abortion-inducing effects, even though this could have helped quicken the process that was already inevitable. So instead of quietly dealing with it in the privacy of my own home I had to wait weeks after the baby was gone and end up in the hospital with hemmorraging severe enough I was blacking out due to the blood loss. Instead of caring doctors, I was met with a suspicious, judgmental staff during one of the most difficult times of my life. I was asked many questions, repeatedly. It felt like an interrogation. They wanted to get a feel for if I was really miscarrying or not, read: should they call the police.

So I learned miscarriage in Mexico immediately makes the woman suspect, due to abortion being illegal. Some Mexican women have sent to prison for having a miscarriage!

I personally hate to think of the loss of any innocent life. I also don't think the government has any business making choices that have such far-reaching consequences on women's health. I consider myself Republican b/c I thought they were all about less government? Apparently, they mean less government, except the vagina.

Christa's picture

I used to be 'prochoice' but

I used to be 'prochoice' but to me, abortion is an act of violence against the defenseless. I know it is not popular to make prolife comments here but I see abortion as murder. What about the rights of the unborn, the rights of the female fetus? So sad...

Abortion is law...but DO NOT TAX ME TO MURDER innocent lives. That is taking MY right away to hold life sacred.

Shira Nahari's picture

Right to Life

Christa, have you thought about what the ramifications could well be
for a child that a mother was forced to bear when she was a victim of rape or incest?
Or forced to carry to term a fetus known to be horribly defective?
A child has a right to a better life than that, IMHO. I hold this right as also sacred.
The proposed bill, HB 125 is also unconstitutional and would simply cost Ohio millions
in court cases!

Kait's picture

Safe Space/Thank you

This is a safe space where we are all free to express our opinions. We can honor and respect one another even without disagreeing. That is the beauty of the community that Lissa has created.

I also want to personally thank you for a different persective regarding the role taxation plays in, as you put it, individuals rights to hold life sacred. Thank you for being brave enough to share a view you knew might not be as "popular" or accepted.

Christa's picture

In response to Shira and Kait

I appreciate not being castigated or vilified here. I was very reluctant to respond as I know most of the women here do not share my views on this subject.

I find it somewhat sad that many in the prochoice movement mock people in the prolife movement as illegitimate crackpots. I think both sides are fighting for life and both sides raise important questions about the rights and responsibilities of society.

@Shira - Yes, of course I’ve thought about rape and incest. I also ask us all to consider: Do two wrongs make a right? Does the rape of a 13 y/o girl justify the death of the unborn?

Some believe dismembering living human beings is a legitimate medical practice, some do not. Abortion punishes the unborn child who committed no crime, and might I add, half of those children are female. What about their rights? Dead people can’t choose anything. And a fetus cannot defend itself. It’s up to us to secure their right to live. If we don’t, who will?

As a suicide prevention advocate, I vow to keep human life sacred, not destroy it. Prior to losing two friends to suicide I was more firmly in the prochoice camp. As a college student, I KNEW I would have an abortion if I’d ever gotten pregnant. I never doubted that. But in the last few years I’ve asked myself: How can I be anti-suicide and pro-abortion? I am either pro-life or I’m not. And in case you’re wondering, I also have mixed views on the death penalty now. If someone were to hurt or kill my family member, the Italian in me would want them dead. Trust me, I see the conflict.

I have seen photos of fetuses prior to the end of the first trimester and you know what, they have arms, legs and feet. They even yawn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwhIx-QZkB0

As a society we advocate for the rights of trees, animals and pets and yet we consciously accept abortion as a medical procedure, not the conscious and willful cessation of human life. We warn women about the effects of smoking, drugs and drinking on the fetus – we prosecute offenders who commit acts of violence against pregnant women and yet society turns a blind eye, or worse, vilifies people who dare talk about abortion in the same sentence with the word murder.

Even though the fetus cannot live independently from the mother within the first trimester, does that somehow making ending the embryo’s’ life fair or humane? Personally, I think not.

Carz's picture

Two issues raised

Your article raises two issues; the right to safe and legal abortion and the definition of rape.

I'm in Australia so I don't know that I am particularly qualified to comment on abortion laws in the USA. However, it doesn't stop me from being horrified that even now people are trying to use legislation to force a woman to become a mother by denying them access to safe and legal terminations. In the eight states and territories of Australia only one has fully legalised abortion on demand while another has decriminalised it. The remaining six still legally rely on the fact that it must be proved that continuing a pregnancy would be detrimental to the health and well being of the mother. While I don't know how actively that standard is pursued I can imagine that in the hands of an anti-choice counsellor or doctor it could result in mothers effectively being force to continue a pregnancy against their will.

The abortion debate is personal to me. When I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now ten, she was diagnosed as having choroid (spelling?) plexus cyst, which, at that time, was considered a potential marker for a devastating genetic condition (I don't know if it still is). While a follow up ultrasound four weeks later showed it had resolved itself my ex husband and I were still left to consider the option of termination if it did not. It was a scary time and I am glad that things turned out well. But I am also glad that I would have had the option to terminate if they hadn't.

The other issue, the re-defining of rape, is an issue that really does scare me. While so many activists have fought for so many years to have the definition of rape expanded to include all types it seems, from what I have read, that in the USA there is a fight to have it returned to a very narrow definition. (This scares me because, all too often, where you lead we follow) Someone pointed out to me recently that even RAINN use the word forcible in their definition of rape. As a survivor, and I know many who feel the same way, it feels like we are constantly having to fight to have our experiences to be considered "real" rape if they haven't included an element of force. Legislation here is pretty good, although, like in the USA, does vary from state to state. Generally it revolves around consent rather than force. I would hate to see that change.


Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you Kate

I'm so glad you feel safe expressing your real views here. I hear and honor your opinion.
With love

Kate's picture

Living Authenticity


Thanks for your post, and for the heartfelt one you wrote before on your views on abortion. Your courage, and the safe space of Owning Pink, is so appreciated.

When I was 20 years old, I went off the pill because I was going to study abroad in Mexico for 4 months and I wouldn't have access to a good supply of it. Just before I left, I thought that I may be pregnant with the baby of a guy who had just left me. I left for Mexico, a country where there is no abortion, completely terrified. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I was pretty sure that I wouldn't keep that pregnancy, if I was in fact pregnant. I consider myself pro-Life and my ex was EXTREMELY vocal in his anti-abortion stance. Still, I just knew that I couldn't do it.

Fortunately, I never had to make that decision, as the test came back negative. I don't think I was ever that relieved to hear from my doctor's office. But being in that position made me realize that sometimes, things happen. And it has made me really examine my beliefs.

I have come to believe that abortion does involve a baby, a soul, and that a decision to abort can never be taken lightly. But, there are TWO souls involved, that of the baby, and that of the mother. And I believe that neglecting the mother is just as wrong as neglecting the child. BOTH are precious. So I'm not sure I have the right to tell a woman she cannot or must do something with her body.

I live in Ohio and hear a lot about these bills. I'm not sure how I feel about the bill that limits abortions. I do think, though, that pulling federal funding from abortions can be seen as authentic, since it doesn't force taxpayers to support something that they may not agree with.

I know this may open a can of worms, but thanks for letting me be open and honest.

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