On Thursday afternoon, the Ohio legislature approved a budget bill that includes several serious attacks on women’s reproductive freedom. The proposed budget would defund Planned Parenthood, strip funding from rape crisis centers that give their clients information about abortion, force some abortion clinics to close, and require doctors to give women information about the fetal heartbeat before proceeding with an abortion. And voters aren’t exactly happy with it.
The majority of Ohio voters don’t support the provisions in the state budget related to limiting women’s reproductive rights, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP). Fifty two percent of respondents don’t support the budget specifically because it seeks to defund Planned Parenthood, a move that would limit thousands of Ohio women’s access to preventative care and family planning services. And 52 percent also oppose the budget provision that would impose harsh requirements on abortion providers, ultimately forcing some clinics to shut down.
Those voters are now making their voices heard. On Thursday, as lawmakers were preparing to vote on the budget, activists rallied on the steps of the state capitol building.
“I’m seeing red — we are angry. But what happens when we get angry? We get to work and we stand up,” Ohio Rep. Nickie Antonio (D) told the crowd of protesters gathered on Thursday. Other Democratic lawmakers in the state expressed similar disapproval as the measure advanced in the GOP-controlled legislature, pointing out that “this budget treats women like they are too stupid to make their own health care decisions.”
Once the bill won final approval, protesters shouted, “Shame on you!” and were escorted from the chamber.
Gov. Kasich is now the last thing that stands between Ohio women and the proposed abortion restrictions. Women’s health advocates delivered 17,000 petitions to the governor on Thursday asking him to veto the controversial budget amendments — but he hasn’t yet indicated whether he plans to reject them. “I’ll look at the language, keeping in mind that I’m pro-life,” the governor said earlier this week when reporters asked him about his plans for the fetal heartbeat amendment.
Ohio’s battle over stringent abortion restrictions comes on the heels of a similar fight in Texas, where hundreds of activists rallied to help Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX) successfully delay a vote on a package of anti-abortion measures. But public opinion doesn’t necessarily translate into legislative action on women’s health issues. Even though 80 percent of Texans don’t want their lawmakers to focus on restricting reproductive rights, Gov. Rick Perry (R) is doing everything he can to push through more abortion restrictions anyway.