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Ohio bill would allow pregnant people to sue men for unintended pregnancies

 Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) testifies in Senate committee in October 2021.
Tina Maharath
Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) testifies in Senate committee in October 2021.

With Ohio’s new six-week abortion ban in place, a Democratic state lawmaker says it’s time for the Ohio Legislature to give consideration to her bill that holds men, who cause an unintended pregnancy, responsible whether the sex that led to the pregnancy was consensual or not.

Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) said her bill would allow anyone who becomes pregnant to file a civil suit against the person who impregnated them — even if it happened as a result of consensual sex.

“Regardless of the circumstances. I felt it was important to have that vague language due to the fact that abortion is now banned here in the state of Ohio,” Maharath said.

Maharath’s bill would allow the court could order a person who it determines causes a pregnancy to pay damages of not less than $5000 plus court costs and attorney fees.

Ohio's new ban on abortions — commonly called the "heartbeat" law — takes effect as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, at the point fetal activity can be detected. Maharath said the existence of the new law makes it more important that people who become pregnant have the option to file a civil suit against the person who impregnated them, regardless of how it happened.

Maharath said she was disturbed by a recent news story in which a 10-year-old pregnant girl was denied an abortion in Ohio and was forced to drive to Indianapolis to get one. She said many women don't even know they are pregnant at that point.

"The urgency comes because at six weeks, not everybody knows that, especially if you are 10-years-old and pregnant. At ten years old, you don't know too much about your reproductive rights," Maharath said.

A group of Democratic lawmakers have introduced a package of legislation which they say will help parents afford the costs of raising infants and children in the state.

The bills address several issues such as eliminating the sales taxes families pay for diapers and creating a one-time $600 Infant Formula Tax Credit to help families afford those items.

Maharath's bill has yet to have a hearing in a Senate committee but Republican lawmakers have said they intend to pass a complete ban on abortion when they come back into session in November.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.