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EDITORIAL: State laws put teenage moms in a double-bind



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Pregnant teenagers in Ohio are being forced to endure unnecessary pain during childbirth.

In a state where 91 percent of counties have no abortion clinics and sexual health literacy is alarmingly low, teenage girls are being refused epidurals during childbirth to numb unnecessary pain.

Minors in the state can only receive emergency services, not elective coverage like pain relief. But it’s not just Ohio’s problem. 

People under the age of 18 undergoing labor cannot consent to their own heath care services, according to an exposé by NPR. Minors must rely on the legal consent of their parents – whether or not they're present in the delivery room. 

Consequently, minors without parental consent for pain relief have to go through intense and painful natural childbirth instead of electing to receive an epidural, a common anesthesia that eases labor pains, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Ohio, our Midwest neighbor to the east, has produced such reproductive health bills as the “heartbeat bill” and is led by the notoriously anti-choice Republican Gov. John Kasich. 

Ohio is one of 13 states that does not explicitly specify whether minors can consent to prenatal or obstetric care, making it easier for backward laws to become state policy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.

Aside from the law’s attack on women’s reproductive care, the policies are also notable for ignoring complicated family dynamics in the legal consent process. 

According to NPR, there is no legal process for emancipation in Ohio that would give pregnant minors consenting authority over their own health care. Instead, a minor’s parents must be legally dead, or the pregnant teen must be married or enlisted in the military. 

In worst case scenarios doctors have too often witnessed, present parents or guardians force their pregnant child to undergo natural childbirth as punishment for getting pregnant.

Teenage mothers are already publicly shamed and demonized enough as it is. In our society, they are portrayed as sluts who couldn't refrain from having sex. 

They shoulder the entire blame for a pregnancy and are refused basic reproductive services like abortion access. 

The fetuses they carry are worth more to the state than the women themselves, but once children are delivered, state policies offer little in terms of welfare services to better the lives of the mother and the new child. 

State laws like these won’t increase abstinence or scare teens from getting pregnant – especially since there are currently no state measures in Ohio for emergency contraception for low-income women, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America

They are only telling of the strong double-bind young women are placed in when it comes to authority over their bodies and reproduction.

Fortunately, two Ohio state democratic congresswomen, Reps. Nickie Antonio Kristin Boggs, are working on legislation to fix Ohio’s backward laws. 

The state bill H.B. 302 currently moving through the Ohio Statehouse would allow pregnant minors to authorize consent to their own health care, all the way from the prenatal phase through the childbirth. 

Ohio state laws — and any reproduction-restrictive states, for that matter — must work for young women who may become pregnant. State lawmakers can’t have it both ways by restricting abortion access and making it harder for teenagers to carry and deliver a child. 

If states are going to force teenage girls into birthing children, the least the law can do is accommodate them during the excruciatingly painful delivery. 

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