Questioning Abortion Legality

Vetoes, approvals, and court challenges regarding an Ohio abortion law led to misconceptions about whether or not abortions are allowed in Ohio.

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Read Time: 2 minutes


Roe v. Wade firmly established a person’s right to an abortion. Or so we thought. Nearly fifty years after this historic ruling, states continue to introduce and pass anti-abortion bills.

In the final months of 2018, Ohio’s House and Senate passed a bill banning abortions after 6 weeks gestation. Governor Kasich immediately vetoed the bill. However, the veto was short-lived. In early 2019 Governor DeWine took office and signed the bill into law. But, before the law could even take effect, a federal court struck it down.

Confused? You’re not alone. Maria Gallo and team explored whether this complicated legislative process led people to mistakenly believe abortion was illegal in Ohio. They analyzed eight months of data from the Ohio Survey of Women, starting from when the 2018 bill was initially passed to when it was struck down by the federal court.

In the figure above, the solid black line represents the percentage of survey respondents who believed abortion was illegal. Over the eight months, this percentage increased from 4.5% to 15.9%. Participants who completed the survey in 2019 after the final federal court ruling were 3.9 times more likely to believe abortion was illegal than those who completed it in 2018 when the bill was initially passed.

Media coverage may have contributed to the confusion. During the eight-month survey period, more than 500 stories in the US popular media mentioned abortion in Ohio. Since the media typically reports new and noteworthy events, coverage of this multi-step process may have caused readers to misinterpret the legal status of abortion.

Misconceptions about the legality of abortion may cause people to delay seeking services. This increases their risk for complications and eventually passes the period when abortion is an option. Clear messaging about abortion legality is needed for people to be aware of their right to this important and life-changing procedure.

Databyte via Maria F. Gallo, John B. Casterline, Payal Chakraborty, Alison Norris, Danielle Bessett, Abigail Norris Turner, Passage of abortion ban and women’s accurate understanding of abortion legality, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, February 2021.