Morning News: Political implications of Health Gap investigation; protesters rally for fired federal worker; pro-life groups pushing more abortion restrictions in Ohio

As Ohio’s controversial 20-week abortion ban took effect yesterday, pro-life groups like Ohio Right to Life began calling for even more restrictive laws that would end most abortions in the second trimester.

Mar 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

click to enlarge Planned Parenthood's Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Planned Parenthood's Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn
Good morning all. Here’s some news for you today.


Recent media investigations into a city-funded nonprofit run by former Cincinnati mayor Dwight Tillery could present complications for Mayor John Cranley’s re-election bid. Tillery was once a major Cranley ally who played a big role in the mayor’s outreach to Cincinnati’s black voters, and recent rifts between the two could strain Cranley’s relationship with certain segments of the black community in which Tillery is still prominent. Cranley’s administration increased funding for Tillery’s group The Center for Closing the Health Gap every year since Cranley was elected. But the two had a falling out last year, and Tillery has been increasingly hostile to the mayor. Cranley called for an investigation into the Health Gap’s spending as media investigations into the Health Gap were published last week — further increasing the tension between the two former allies. Tillery and Health Gap supporters plan to rally at City Hall during Cincinnati City Council's meeting today.


• Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune says he supports an effort to expand downtown’s Duke Energy Convention Center and draw a first-class hotel to downtown and would like to see a detailed plan to do so this year. Portune is leaning on the two other members of the commission, Democrat Denise Driehaus and Republican Chris Monzel, to get on board with the plan as well. Portune says the expansion and new hotel would allow the region to draw more dollars from visiting conferences and tourism. The Duke Energy center has less than 200,000 square feet of space, less than centers in Cincinnati’s rival cities. Portune says he’d like to see at least 300,000 square feet. Still unanswered: which direction the building would expand and how the big project would be funded.


• Protesters and media are descending on the federal courthouse downtown for the second day of hearings in the Sherry Chen case. Chen, a former worker for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, was fired after she was accused of espionage involving the Chinese government. The federal government dropped all charges against Chen in 2015, but she was dismissed from her job anyway. (Note to the Cincinnati Enquirer: the above scenario doesn’t count as being “disgraced,” as your headline suggests). Now, Chen is fighting in court to get her job back.


• A Butler County lawmaker is facing drunk driving and weapons charges after he was caught driving under the influence this weekend. State Rep. Wes Retherford of Hamilton was allegedly passed out drunk in a McDonald’s drive-thru Sunday when officers arrested him. The officers reported he had a loaded firearm in the vehicle. The charges could cost Retherford his spot in the General Assembly, though he will continue to serve until his legal situation is resolved. Rutherford has a history of driving infractions, though none before Sunday for driving under the influence.


• Are license plate readers a way for law enforcement to do their job more efficiently, or an illegal surveillance technique leading to unlawful search and seizures? The Kentucky Supreme Court today will hear arguments about privacy concerns around the use of license plate readers by law enforcement offices. Those readers automatically capture images of license plates on vehicles traveling on Kentucky highways. A lawsuit brought by Burlington, Ky. resident Gregory Traft charges that a Boone County deputy sheriff had no right to stop him after a license reader snapped a photo of his plate, allowing deputies to see that he had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for writing a bad check. A deputy stopped Traft, even though he wasn’t committing any crimes, and subsequently found out he was driving under the influence. Traft’s lawyer argues that’s illegal search and seizure, since there was no reasonable suspicion that Traft was committing a crime.


• Ohio’s controversial 20-week abortion ban took effect yesterday. Now, pro-life groups like Ohio Right to Life are calling for even more restrictive laws that would end most abortions in the second trimester.


“Today, as our law takes effect, we are hard at work on the next set of laws that will scale back abortion-on-demand,” Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Devin Scribner wrote in the email release to the group’s members and supporters.


The 20-week ban, which Kentucky also recently adopted, marked the 18th abortion restriction passed by state lawmakers since Ohio Gov. John Kasich took office in 2011. Now, Ohio Right to Life and other groups are pushing laws that would outlaw procedures used in 95 percent of second-trimester abortions, part of an effort to end abortion in the state.