On April 13, 2016, reproductive health professionals, elected officials, activists, and concerned citizens convened at the Ohio State House to discuss the current state of and future of women’s health care in Ohio.

Of major concern included four separate abortion bans pending in the Ohio Legislature.  None of which provide exception for rape, incest, fetal anomalies, or health/life of the mother.

  • House Bill 69: Six-Week Abortion Ban – This bill would ban abortion at six weeks post conception. It has already passed the Ohio House and has been assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Interestingly, similar legislation has already passed in North Dakota and Arkansas, but were immediately struck down by the courts.
  • House Bill 117 and Senate Bill 127: Twenty-Week Abortion Ban – This bill would ban abortion at twenty weeks post conception. It should be noted that Ohio already has a 24-week ban in place which forces women to leave the state to seek later abortion care. House Bill 117 has been assigned to the Community and Family Advancement Committee. Senate Bill 127 has passed the Ohio Senate and has been assigned to the House Community and Family Advancement Committee.
  • House Bill 135: Down Syndrome Abortion Ban – The piece of legislation would prohibit abortion if a woman reveals she is seeking the service sure to a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. This bill has passed out of the House Community and Family Advancement Committee and is currently waiting on a vote in the Ohio House.

Although the abortion bans were the main focus of the Advocacy Day, there were other pieces of legislation discussed including House Bill 417 and Senate Bill 254 which seek to place further restriction on biological tissue disposal by requiring abortion providers to cremate or bury fetal tissue remains; House Bill 419 which is similar to HB 417 and SB 254 in requiring abortion facilities to dispose of biological tissue from an abortion by cremation, burial, or incineration; and House Bill 255 which is aimed at restricting medical doctors from using updated-FDA protocols for medication abortions.

The group spent the morning becoming well-versed in the history, current state, language, and constitutionality of these proposed bills before meeting with elected officials to discuss their concerns and ask for their public opposition of the bans.

Although abortion is a divisive issue, in a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in March 2016, more than half of adults in the United States take a non-absolutist position, saying that in most — but not allcases abortion should be legal (33 percent) or illegal (24 percent). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (24 percent) or illegal (16 percent).[1] Furthermore, over time (1995-2016), these views have remained stable as demonstrated in the graph below.[2]

abort

This information comes from Pew Research Center. A survey was conducted during the period of March 17, 2016 through March 27, 2016 to gauge current opinion while data from 1995 to 2005 was obtained from ABC News/Washington Post polls and data for 2006 from AP-Ipsos poll. “Trend lines show aggregated data from polls conducted in each year.”[3] The results from 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are based on a single Pew Research Center poll in each year.

Using this information and understanding that the debate over reproductive rights is much larger than simply abortion but encompasses contraception, family planning, comprehensive sex education, and other prevention efforts, we must ask ourselves why are there so many legislative measures focused solely on banning a constitutionally protected right? Why are our Ohio’s elected officials so interested in undermining the health and well-being of Ohio’s women or at the very least making private, medical decisions for them when there are larger and more far-reaching issues like the economy, job creation, and improving health and educational outcomes to name a few. After all, according to research compiled by Business Insider,

Ohio’s economy ranks 25th among the fifty states and the District of Columbia.[4]  More specifically, “Ohio’s 2014 2.1 percent GDP growth was just below the national growth rate of 2.2 percent, and the state’s 5.2 percent unemployment rate was just below the national 5.3 percent rate.”[5]

As one reproductive rights activist stated so eloquently during the Freedom of Choice Ohio Advocacy Day, “Abortion is the politics of distraction. Distraction from the issues that really matter. Distraction from the issues that our leaders were elected to deal with. Distraction from the values and opinions that the majority of Ohioans hold.”

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[1] Pew Research Center, “Views About Abortion, 2016: A Detailed Look,” Pew Research Center. Accessed 4/25/2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/08/public-opinion-on-abortion-2/

[2] Pew Research Center, “Public Opinion on Abortion: Views on Abortion, 1995-2016,” Pew Research Center. Accessed 4/25/2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/08/public-opinion-on-abortion-2/

[3] Pew Research Center, ““Public Opinion on Abortion: Views on Abortion, 1995-2016,” Pew Research Center. Accessed 4/25/2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/08/public-opinion-on-abortion-2/

[4] Business Insider ranked the economies of the United States, and the District of Columbia based on seven measures: unemployment rates, gross domestic product per capita, average weekly wages, and recent growth rates for nonfarm payroll jobs, GDP, house prices, and wages.

[5] Kiersz, Andy, “RANKED: The Economies of All 50 US States and DC from Worst to Best,” Business Insider. Accessed 4/25/2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/state-economy-ranking-july-2015-2015-7