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Ohio Republican State Representative Mike Duffey took to Facebook this week to explain his somewhat unexpected vote against Senate Bill 127, legislation that will prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The bill contained no exceptions for rape or incest, and in a 54-37 vote, House members refused to consider an exception for cases in which a physician determines a “fetus has a severe fetal anomaly or is unlikely to survive after birth.” Duffey was one of only 3 Republican lawmakers, all of whom represent Columbus suburbs, to vote against the bill, which passed 64-39.

In a post on his official Facebook page, Duffey explained that by listening to women, he learned that abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare and often very tragic situations. From his post:

Well, as we learned during the debate, and as I learned directly from friends and constituents, ballpark 99% of abortions occur before 20 weeks. The other 1% often involve severe fetal abnormalities that risk the life of the child and/or the mother. One such abnormality is when there's not enough amniotic fluid, so a baby's bones end up crushing it's organs, gradually killing it. This is one of the many terrible risks pregnant women face. Rep. Boggs explained this in her floor speech, which you can watch on the Ohio Channel. So when a ban is proposed that would not allow the mother to make a choice about putting her child through this torture, it goes too far for me. And I know other Republicans who felt the same. This is not a simple issue. It is a complicated, personal, emotional, terrifying and private decision.

Read Duffey’s full post on Facebook.

Duffey is right to listen to women. As he notes, only 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and the circumstances are not at all easy. We reached out to State Representative Kristin Boggs, herself 39-weeks pregnant, to find out what she said that moved her colleague.

Her response:

I was looking forward to my 13 week appointment and hearing from the doctor that everything was OK with the pregnancy so that we could start telling our family. But then when the doctor gave me a schedule for our follow up appointments she told me that I needed to have my 20 week ultra sound scheduled for my 18th week of pregnancy- because if something was wrong we'd want time to make decisions and figure out a plan.  That was the first time I realized that there is no "safe zone" in pregnancy- when you're pregnant bad things can happen at any time and there are a lot of issues with the pregnancy that can occur after the first trimester- in fact many do not present themselves before 20 weeks. I wasn't really aware of all the issues that can happen after 20 weeks until I was pregnant myself. The thought of finding out at 20 weeks that my body- which is supposed to be providing life support for my growing baby- is actually causing my baby to experience a slow and painful death would be the worst imaginable experience I could ever face.  Not having the freedom to decide what is best for my baby- with my doctor and husband would cause unimaginable pain and mental anguish for the baby, myself, and those who love us. That is why I could not support the 20 week without an exception for fetal anomalies.

Duffey rightly decided not to substitute his judgement for that of a woman and her doctor, especially not knowing the circumstances she is facing. Duffey’s enlightened position on this issue was only arrived at thanks to women stepping up to tell their stories. More will need to come forward, in letters to the Governor, letters to the editor, or even Facebook, if we hope to change the narrative on bills like SB127.

SB127 passed by a veto-proof margin and is now before Governor Kasich who has 10 days from today to sign or veto the measure. Without action, the bill automatically becomes law. Several protests are ongoing, and opponents of SB127 are urged to contact Governor Kasich.

Rep. Boggs’s baby is due later this week, and many thanks go to her little one for being patient enough to let Mom stand up for women who do not have a voice.

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