Rally pushes abortion rights, women’s health

By Marc Kovac



Hundreds of vocal women put Statehouse Republicans on notice Wednesday about their plans for next year’s general election.

Angered by abortion- related law changes included among spending plans in the $62 billion biennial budget, they held signs, chanted and didn’t mince words about GOP reelection prospects.

“Your hide-and-sneak tactics to get this anti-women legislation through in a budget bill at the 11th hour without allowing any conversation about it, no hearings, no ability to find out what the constituents of this state really want, your days of being able to do that are numbered, my friend,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, directing the comments to Gov. John Kasich.

“We are coming after you.”

Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, added, “We’re going to be in Ashtabula, we’re going to be in Cincinnati, in Toledo, in Dayton, Cleveland, everywhere in this state, here in Columbus, until these legislators realize women are not going to take it anymore.”

The two were featured speakers at the “We Won’t Go Back” rally, which took place shortly before state lawmakers reconvened floor sessions following their summer recess and which provided a venue for opponents of abortion restrictions included in the biennial state budget.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed and Kasich signed into law a provision that requires doctors to check for fetal heartbeats before performing abortions. Other language reprioritizes funding, a move to block payments to Planned Parenthood.

Democratic lawmakers and women’s health advocates are unhappy with the law changes, which they say were added to the larger budget bill at the last minute with little debate or discussion.

“This is not a man’s business what we do with our bodies,” said Lupe Williams, a Wayne County woman who is active in the Ohio Democratic Party’s Women’s Caucus. “We have to decide whether we want to have children or not to have children. Besides, he’s blocking Planned Parenthood and other institutions that give health care to women. Is he against women?”

Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent, D-75th, this week introduced a bill to repeal all of the abortion-related amendments, though that legislation is not expected to get much traction in the GOP-dominated chambers.

Wednesday’s rally came a day after Ohio Right to Life reported a 3 percent increase in abortions last year (25,473, up from 24,764). That followed a 12 percent decrease in abortions during the previous year.

“We grieve for the loss of life represented by this report, and rise in abortions last year — even if it’s slight — is a tragedy that reminds us that our work is not done,” Mike Gonidakis, the group’s president, said in a released statement.

“Fewer babies are alive today — especially in the African American community — and the blame for that tragedy lies squarely on the shoulders of Planned Parenthood, the rest of the abortion industry, and every politician who campaigned on their behalf last year.”

He added, “Right now, the pro-life community is wondering how much higher last year’s abortions would have been without the life-saving laws that have already been enacted in Ohio. We fully expect Planned Parenthood and NARAL to celebrate the overall abortion increase, but we nevertheless hope that they will one day work with Ohio Right to Life, pregnancy help centers, and the rest of the pro-life community to lower the number of abortions and bring Ohio back to life.”

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