The Republican-dominated Ohio Legislature has tried and failed to advance some of the most extreme anti-choice and anti-woman legislation in the country, including a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and the “heartbeat bill” that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Having had little success in the state house, radical anti-choice advocates have found a foothold in the Ohio State Medical Board instead.
On Thursday, the Ohio Senate confirmed Ohio Right To Life President Mike Gonidakis’ appointment to the state Medical Board. Gonidakis is now the second member of the officially nonpartisan board with strong ties to the anti-choice organization, after former Right to Life board member Laurie Elsass. The Medical Board, comprised of 9 doctors and 3 “consumer” positions, manages licensing and regulation of the state’s doctors.
During his 5-year term, Gonidakis will have the power to deny or revoke licenses from Ohio doctors. With no medical expertise, the former ORTL president has made it quite clear that he is willing to distort medical information to fit his agenda. Just a few months ago, he falsely claimed that “not one abortion last year, and the report just came out a few weeks ago, not one abortion was due to rape, incest, or the life of the mothers.” This assertion was disputed by practicing OB-GYNs.
While the board is intended to be purely administrative, other states have also politicized their medical boards. The Virginia Medical Board was pressured into reconsidering their decision to exempt existing abortion clinics from excessively strict regulations meant to shut down these facilities. In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) stacked the state medical board with an anti-choice activist and a Catholic priest who had testified on anti-choice legislation. Gonidakis has made it quite clear how he will approach his position; just a few months ago, he claimed falsely that “not one abortion last year…was due to rape, incest or the life of the mothers.”
Gonidakis is just one of Gov. John Kasich’s (R-OH) many politicized appointments during the lame duck session. The governor also appointed Ohio Right to Life board member Marshall Pitchford to a Supreme Court vacancy committee on October 12. Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Kellie Copeland protested the appointments, saying Kasich’s choices proved he was “playing a more active role in the war on women than Ohioans realize.”