On Wednesday, hundreds of Ohio residents gathered at the statehouse to protest the stringent abortion restrictions enacted at the beginning of this summer. In June, Ohio Republicans attached several anti-abortion provisions to a two-year state budget and rushed through the legislation very quickly, without much time for public debate. Now, voters in the state are fighting back.
“We won’t go back!” pro-choice advocates proclaimed, making the point that the new abortion restrictions signed under Gov. John Kasich (R) will ultimately undo the progress that women have made toward achieving their reproductive rights. Representatives from over 50 pro-choice groups and labor unions attended Wednesday’s rally.
Ohio’s budget includes at least five provisions that severely compromise women’s access to health care. It defunds Planned Parenthood clinics, reallocates state funding to right-wing “crisis pregnancy centers,” imposes harsh restrictions on abortion clinics, strips funds from rape crisis centers that refer their clients to abortion clinics, and requires women to listen to the fetal heartbeat before being allowed to have an abortion. Taken together, the new restrictions ensure that Ohio has some of the harshest abortion laws in the nation. And thanks to the budget, abortion clinics in the state have already started closing their doors.
The estimated 350 people who attended the rally tweeted photos of their shoes at the governor, making the point that he doesn’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes and shouldn’t be legislating their reproductive health. A Cleveland gynecologist delivered a speech in which she told politicians to get out of her exam room. And activists held signs proclaiming “Kasich is not my doctor” and “no more wire hangers” (all photos courtesy of We Won’t Go Back Ohio and Progress Ohio):
This is hardly the first time that Ohio voters have expressed their disapproval with the new budget. Activists rallied at the state capitol in June and delivered over 17,000 signatures to Kasich asking him to veto the abortion-related provisions in the budget bill. When he didn’t listen and signed the anti-choice legislation anyway, a crowd protesters in the chamber yelled, “Shame on you!” And earlier this month, Democratic lawmakers in Ohio finally held a public hearing on the budget to give voters the chance to testify against the abortion restrictions — an opportunity that wasn’t available earlier in the summer, as Republicans hurriedly pushed through the legislation without leaving much room for debate.
Nonetheless, Republicans in the state are under pressure to enact even more stringent abortion legislation. In August, right-wing lawmakers revived a “heartbeat” bill that would ban abortion procedures after just six weeks of pregnancy, a radical measure that’s failed to advance in the past.