Ohio Women Rally Against State Budget's Abortion Restrictions
October 3, 2013 — Women's rights advocates rallied at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday against state budget provisions that they said are threatening women's health and rights, the Columbus Dispatch reports (Felser, Columbus Dispatch, 10/3).
The budget, which took effect Sept. 30, includes a provision that requires abortion clinics to secure a transfer agreement with a private hospital and prohibits them from making such arrangements with public hospitals.
The budget also requires physicians to perform an abdominal ultrasound prior to an abortion and tell the woman if a heartbeat is detectable. Physicians also must explain the likelihood that the fetus would survive if the pregnancy continues. The bill defines a fetus as "developing from the moment of conception."
In addition, the budget reprioritizes which providers may receive federal family planning money in a way that effectively cuts off $1.4 million from Planned Parenthood. However, the budget does provide funding for antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which critics argue give women medically inaccurate information. The legislation allows public funding for rape crisis clinics to be suspended if they counsel victims on abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/25).
Protesters on Wednesday gathered outside the Statehouse building, yelling, "We won't go back" and holding signs criticizing the provisions, state lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich (R) (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3).
The rally -- called We Won't Go Back, Stand Strong with Ohio's Women -- involved more than 50 groups, including the Ohio National Organization for Women, physician groups, abortion-rights organizations, labor unions and political groups (Higgs, Northeast Ohio Media Group, 10/2). According to Capitol Square officials, the crowd reached an estimated 350 people, but organizers claimed that 750 people participated (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3).
Speaking at the protest, NOW President Terry O'Neill said, "Women are not fooled by the hide-and-sneak tactics" of Kasich and his supporters, "who want to push us back to the 1950s" (Northeast Ohio Media Group, 10/2).
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio President and CEO Stephanie Kight said, "Politicians don't know what a woman needs to stay healthy and strong," adding, "We are not going to stand idle while our lives are put at risk because of politics" (Columbus Dispatch, 10/3). Kight said "medically unnecessary" restrictions "hurt our most vulnerable women" and "are designed to reduce access to the care women need" (Northeast Ohio Media Group, 10/2).
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said the restrictions are causing women to travel out of state for abortions and making it more difficult for women, especially low-income women, to access birth control. The measures will not reduce the number of abortions, she added.
Response From Budget Supporters
Supporters of the measure maintained that they are good for women's health (Ingles, WOSU, 10/3). Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols said the governor supports reasonable restrictions, adding, "The governor is pro-life and believes strongly in the sanctity of life."
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis dismissed the rally as "nothing more than a political stunt" (Northeast Ohio Media Group, 10/2). Gonidakis added that the budget provisions ensure that women receive proper care and can make informed choices (WOSU, 10/3).