An Ohio lawmaker who proposed legislation extending insurance coverage to a procedure considered medically impossible as a way of fighting abortion worked closely on the bill with a conservative lobbyist, according to newly released emails.
State Rep. John Becker, a southwestern Ohio Republican, got help from Barry Sheets, a lobbyist for the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio, as he crafted a measure that's since drawn international scrutiny for its questionable medical grounding, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Wednesday.
The bill prohibits insurers from covering abortion services, but provides an exception for a procedure “intended to reimplant” an ectopic pregnancy in a woman's uterus.
Becker told the newspaper he never researched whether re-implanting an ectopic pregnancy into a woman's uterus was a viable medical procedure before including it in the bill. Sheets declined comment.
"I heard about it over the years," Becker said. “I never questioned it or gave it a lot of thought.”
Another bill that's since been introduced in Ohio's Republican-led House subjects doctors to potential murder charges who don't try everything to save the life of a mother and fetus, “including attempting to reimplant an ectopic pregnancy into the woman's uterus.”
The emails show Sheets encouraged Becker to push back after a Maryland geneticist questioned the scientific journal articles he was using to defend the provision. One was from 1980 and one was from 1917.
“These 'case reports' are published in major medical journals, which one would have to assume are peer-reviewed for medical accuracy (verified) before being published," Sheets wrote to Becker in emails first requested by Equity Forward as part of a national review of anti-abortion access legislation.
To the geneticist's concerns that Becker was promoting a rarely used procedure without knowing the possible side effects, Sheets responded, to a forwarded email, “That's a good one.”
“The ‘side-effects’ are that the embryo was carried to full-term and a baby was given birth to, according to the 'case reports,'” Sheets wrote. “What are the 'side-effects' on the current treatment for ectopic pregnancies on the embryo? Oh, that's right — death.”
Becker told The Enquirer he hadn't seen the two studies until after The Enquirer requested examples of research in May. He now acknowledges that there's no standard operating procedure for reimplanting ectopic pregnancies.
"But these are documented," he told the newspaper. "They should get the medical journals corrected if this is wrong."
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said it is cruel to spread misinformation that might make women facing ectopic pregnancies believe there is a viable procedure available to them.