Here they go again. With recent appointments and renewed legislation, Ohio Republicans are once again taking aim at women’s health rights. Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates, a new version of the heartbeat bill is set to appear in the Ohio legislature and a bill that will defund Planned Parenthood is getting renewed attention.
“It’s clear that they didn’t get the memo,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, on Nov. 9. “Pro-choice Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to re-elect President Obama and reject this war on women. Here we are, we haven’t even made it to the weekend, and our Senate president is resuming attacks on women’s reproductive health care.”
Copeland was referencing Ohio Republicans’ recent call to renew the heartbeat bill, which Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus hinted at during an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer on Nov. 8. When the heartbeat bill was first introduced in March, it was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It would have banned abortion in Ohio as soon as a heartbeat is detected, which can happen within six weeks of a pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.
The bill was presumed to be dead after months of inactivity, but it seems Ohio Republicans were only waiting for the election to come and go before renewing their agenda against women’s health rights.
The renewed heartbeat bill is only one part of the push, however. Ohio Republicans planned to take up H.B. 298, a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, in a Nov. 14 House Health and Aging Committee hearing with scheduled room for a possible vote. On a national level, Planned Parenthood has been a huge target for social conservatives because the organization offers abortions. But Planned Parenthood released a chart in April that shows abortions only make up 3 percent of all its services. The organization provides many other types of health care, particularly to poor and rural women. Even if a legislator is against abortions, Planned Parenthood may not be the right target.
Still, the two bills aren’t the only recent moves by Ohio Republicans to push an anti-abortion agenda. On Oct. 12, Kasich appointed Marshall Pitchford, a board member at Ohio Right to Life, to a committee in charge of filling a vacancy in the Ohio Supreme Court. On Oct. 29, Kasich appointed Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, to serve a five-year term on the State Medical Board of Ohio, which is in charge of the state’s medical regulations.
The appointments immediately sparked alarm for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Copeland says the appointment of Gonidakis could bring in regulations that limit access to abortions. She also suggests the appointment of Pitchford presents a potential conflict of interest: “Because legislation promoted by Ohio Right to Life is likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court, it is inappropriate for Pitchford to be placed in a position where he can cherry-pick a justice to serve on that court.”
Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, used anti-abortion rhetoric in an email to defend the appointments: “The governor believes strongly in the sanctity of human life, so it’s a surprise that someone would be surprised he practices what he preaches.”
It’s not surprising considering the appointments happened before the election, but it is surprising to see Ohio Republicans stick to an anti-abortion agenda so soon after the election. This is an election in which women and young voters supported Democrats in massive numbers, at least partly due to Democrats’ support of women’s health rights.
The problem is Ohio Republicans do not seem to realize Ohio is not Texas or Georgia. It’s a swing, middle-of-the-road state. In the past few years, every time Republicans have promoted their extreme conservative agenda — Senate Bill 5, repealing early voting rights — voters have pushed back. Ohioans clearly do not want these issues taken up by the state government.
To put it another way, Republicans should take their own advice. When defending Republicans’ gerrymandered congressional victories, Cory Fritz, spokesman for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, told Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer that Republicans won Ohio’s congressional seats 12-4 “by listening to Buckeye State voters who want Washington to focus on growing America’s economy and helping small businesses create jobs.” Maybe it’s time to take up that jobs promise and leave social issues to the privacy of homes.
CONTACT GERMAN LOPEZ: [email protected]