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Planned Parenthood, heartbeat fight expected to continue in 2013
Ohio's more conservative Senate may be more receptive

Jo Ingles
Outgoing Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus blocked some of the most controversial measures.
Courtesy of Ohio Senate
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Women’s issues, predominately those involving family planning and abortion, took center stage this year in Ohio politics. Contentious bills at the Statehouse made their way through the legislative process. But, as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, some of the most controversial of those bills ran into trouble with the Ohio Senate.

INGLES: Women's issues

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Backers of the heartbeat bill, which would have banned abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, started out the year by sending Teddy Bears with beating hearts to Ohio Senators. Heartbeat Bill backer Janet Folger Porter said the sweet looking bears were given to senators to encourage them to pass the heartbeat bill that made it through the House in 2011.

A few weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, the sweet smell of red roses filled the Statehouse as Folger Porter’s group sent lawmakers flowers to, once again, urge passage of the bill. Republican Rep. Lynn Wachtman, the sponsor of the legislation, assured reporters the roses were not a gimmick.

No stunt
“I don’t think it’s a stunt. I think sending a message about roses speaks volumes about how many of us in the House and Senate care about the unborn.  I’m not sure there’s anyone you can care for more than them.”

But opponents of the legislation also were sending messages to senators, urging them to thwart the bill.  They said the climate at the Statehouse had become a war on women and dubbed male lawmakers supporting the legislation the “masters of the uterus.”

”We are no longer chattle,” insisted Democratic Senator Charleta Tavares. “We no longer belong to condescending patronizing men who want to tell us what’s best for us.  They don’t live in our bodies.”

As the battle over the heartbeat bill continued, its backers took a harsher tone -- airing TV ads in senators’ districts, urging abortion opponents to exert pressure to pass the bill.

Constitutional questions
But Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus, a main target of those messages, remained concerned about the bill’s constitutionality. 
“There are a lot of well-meaning people who are sending emails to take action on a piece of legislation where, frankly, they had no indication of what the implications are.”

Senators weren’t the only ones questioning the bill’s constitutionality.

Ohio’s largest anti-abortion group, Ohio Right to Life, did, too. And it came out against the bill. 

County Right to Life organizations started splitting off from the state group, and Ohio Right to Life made some leadership changes over the summer. By fall, after the presidential election, the group’s opposition to the heartbeat bill was silenced.

Niehaus delays
But Senate President Niehaus continued to oppose the bill, so much so that he used a maneuver to put it in committee where it couldn’t be passed by the end of the year.  And that’s when Folger Porter issued this warning that senators should try to go around Niehaus.

“If they don’t care enough to sign that discharge petition (to get it to a vote), then I don’t care enough to ever help them again.”

Niehaus, who’se leaving the Senate, wasn’t swayed.  And the bill died.

So, too, did another bill backed by abortion opponents.

Planned Parenthood defunding
GOP lawmakers were pushing to strip government money for women’s health and family planning away from Planned Parenthood.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonadakis insisted there were plenty of alternative agencies with no ties to abortion.

”We have over 290 facilities in the state of Ohio, approximately 160 community health centers and about 130 local departments of health where young women are going that are need based,”  he said. “And that’s where these funds should be going.  They should not be going to the nation’s largest abortion provider.”

Planned Parenthood stressed that no government funding is being used for abortions.  And the organization pointed out that abortions make up a small part of its services.  Backers of the group, like Democratic State Sen.Nina Turner, criticized opponents who wanted to do away with the organization.

“They’ve got this illusion about abortion that is the rhetoric of the ridiculous,” she said.

They'll be back
In the end, it was Senate President Niehaus who stopped the Planned Parenthood defunding bill, just as he did with the heartbeat bill.

Niehaus said the Senate got the bill too late to give it the serious consideration it deserved.

But neither bill is likely done.

The new Senate could make a big difference in women’s issues next year.  Backers of both the Planned Parenthood bill and the Heartbeat bill promise they’ll be back. And next time around, the Senate will be headed by Keith Faber, a Republican who’s considered to be more conservative than Niehaus. 

Opponents of these bills vow they’ll be back, too, and if the contentious tone of the debate this year is any indication, the fight over women’s issues in 2013 will be passionate and contentious.


Listener Comments:

“There are a lot of well-meaning people who are sending emails to take action on a piece of legislation where, frankly, they had no indication of what the implications are.” - perhaps these people do not get upset over aborting when a heartbeat can be heard. Apparently 20 weeks, or 8months makes no difference to some - it seems Obamacare does not address the infanticide issue, only to say abortion is covered. Why not offer the morning after pill next to the candy, so any age can be irresponsible - Obama evidently thinks this is okay, irresponsibility, sustainability, quantitative easing, green energy - let the good times roll.

Posted by: moral decay on July 17, 2013 3:07AM
Never fear it sounds like the legislators found a way to slip anti abortion language into the budget.

I still have to question why such a moral cause must use so much deception to get their way.

Posted by: Bill (Painesville) on July 14, 2013 5:07AM
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