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Ohio


Ohio adopted strict anti-abortion measures in 2013; more may pass in 2014
Anti-abortion activists push the heartbeat bill; while laws passed in 2013 shut down abortion clinics
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT JO INGLES


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Jo Ingles
 
Women's rights groups protested at the Statehouse but to little avail.
Courtesy of FILE PHOTO
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In The Region:
Ohio lawmakers passed several controversial abortion bills in 2013. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles many more were considered that didn’t pass.
LISTEN: Anti-abortion laws passed, and on their way

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There are few issues at the Ohio Statehouse that are more polarizing than abortion. And over the past year, that issue was front and center as lawmakers passed controversial restrictions as part of the state’s two-year budget plan.  Supporters of legalized abortion, including Democratic State Sen. Capri Cafaro, Charleta Tavares and Nina Turner, said the Ohio Legislature was waging a war on women.

“Last time I checked, members of the General Assembly were not elected to be the sex police," Cafaro said.
Added Tavares: “You are destroying health care for women and as a woman, I am offended.”

And Turner was perhaps the most outraged of all:  “The language in the budget is anti-women, anti-family, anti-choice, anti-poor and absolutely unequivocally immoral.” 

Republicans fire back
But majority Republicans in the Ohio Legislature, including Sen. Peggy Lehner, didn’t see it that way.

“I too am concerned with morality.  I find the loss of 50 million unborn children something that we should be concerned about.”

Lehner and other Republicans voted for bills that made it harder for abortion clinics to stay in business, made it harder for Planned Parenthood to provide birth control services and made it harder for women to get abortions -- much to the delight of John Coats with Ohio Right to Life.

"Let me tell you what an extreme war on women is. An extreme war on women is that most of the babies that are aborted are female."
 
More is likely to come
Part of the controversy came about because many of the abortion bills attached to the budget didn’t get full hearings. So that prompted a rally at the Statehouse this past fall. And passage of the bills sparked a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

There were some abortion bills that didn’t pass, but might in the future. One is a bill by Republican State Rep. Ron Hood that would require doctors to do ultrasounds before providing abortions and that most women be required to hear an audible heartbeat.

"The bill does not require any specific form of the ultrasound. The bill simply states an ultrasound needs to be shown where the baby can be seen and that you can clearly see it is a baby and not just the claim that it is a clump of cells."

No abortions once the heartbeat is heard
Another even more restrictive abortion bill that didn’t pass is the bill that would ban abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat could be detected.  And the head of the group that’s been pushing that bill all along, Janet Folger Porter, said it should come to no surprise that her group is still pushing it. 

"Did you really think we were going to give up? Really?"

To underscore her point, Folger Porter brought in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of a reality TV  show that follows them and their 19 kids. The Duggars raised money and spoke to the media about why it’s time to pass the heartbeat bill.

“In our nation, there is a baby holocaust taking place,” Jim Duggar said.

Ohio Right to Life has never signed on as supporters of the heartbeat bill. And for right now, the organization’s president, Mike Gonadakis, says his group will focus more on adoption than abortion.  In the meantime, supporters of abortion rights, like those at a recent rally, promise to do something else.

The rally included a chanted warning: “We are here today to say to Gov. Kasich, you have picked the wrong one to mess with."

The measures appear to be having negative effects on abortion clinics. At the beginning of 2013, there were 14 abortion clinics in Ohio. But at the end of the year, at least three had closed and more are in danger of closing in 2014.

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