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A letter to an Ohio legislator who is playing with women's lives

A GOP state representative in Ohio has a bill that would ban women from using insurance to cover an abortion. Read host Melissa Harris-Perry's open letter.

Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives held its first hearing on House Bill 351, a bill that would ban Ohio women from using insurance of any kind to cover an abortion. The bill makes no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or when pregnancy threatens a mother's life. It would only allow women to use insurance to end ectopic pregnancies - cases in which an embryo implants outside of the uterus. The bill would also prevent public employees or those on Medicaid from using insurance coverage to pay for certain contraceptives. And the Ohio legislator who sponsored the bill has some questionable ideas about one in particular.

So I thought I'd send him a letter to help clear things up.

Dear Ohio State Representative John Becker:

It's me. Melissa.

Your bill broadly defines abortion to include "drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum." And in your testimony during last week's hearing, you said you didn't intend for birth control pills to be included in that definition. I'm not sure how you make the distinction because, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists--you know, actual doctors--the pill can in fact impede the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

Now I don't say that to give you any incentive for banning insurance coverage of birth control pills, too, but to point out that's just the tip of the iceberg of what you *don't* know about the very health choices you are trying to restrict with your legislation because you also went on to defend your ban on intrauterine devices--commonly known as IUDs--based on your belief that they fit into your scientifically specious definition of an abortion. And you seemed to think it was perfectly reasonable to justify codifying your belief into law by saying:

"This is just a personal view. I'm not a medical doctor."

Well I'll give some credit there -- at least you know enough to admit you're not a doctor. And yet, you insist on playing one in the Ohio Assembly because you are using your power as a legislator to insert your personal views right in the middle of women's private medical decisions. And the very least you could do when making laws to constrain women's health choices is to get your facts straight about women's health.

So please allow me to enlighten you. Because I'm not a medical doctor either, but I do have the good sense to research the facts.

For starters, no matter what your personal views are, an IUD is not equivalent to an abortion just because you say it is. An IUD is a device that when used as a form of long-term contraception, is most often used to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Of the two different kinds of IUDs, just one of them is ever used to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

And neither of those uses scientifically qualifies as an abortion.

But more importantly, by banning IUDs from insurance coverage, you are preventing women from accessing what--according to the CDC--is one of the safest and most effective methods of contraception. What's more, by blocking coverage from women on Medicaid, you are taking away a critical family planning option from women who are most at risk for unintended pregnancy, and least able to afford the costs of their reproductive healthcare.   

And when you propose a bill that could reduce a procedure that could potentially save a woman's life to a question of whether or not she can afford to pay for it, you're doing something much worse than just playing doctor. You're playing with women's lives.

Sincerely, Melissa