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Published: Wednesday, 6/12/2013

State budget as cudgel

Leaders of the Ohio General Assembly seek to devalue the primacy of personal conscience, and to declare war on the privacy of women and their right to control their reproductive decisions — even though that right is the law of the land. To achieve these goals, they are using the state budget as a cudgel.

Under a proposed amendment to the new budget, publicly funded hospitals would be forbidden from entering into transfer agreements with clinics that perform abortions. Such agreements ensure hospital care if complications arise during an abortion procedure.

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A transfer agreement could not be made with any hospital that receives public funds, or even with a doctor who has privileges at a public hospital. In April, the University of Toledo Medical Center pulled out of negotiations on a new transfer agreement with the Center for Choice in downtown Toledo, which closed last week.

The local hospitals operated by the private companies ProMedica and Mercy also have refused to enter into agreements with Center for Choice and another Toledo clinic, Capital Care Network. The latter clinic’s transfer agreement with UTMC expires at the end of July, and seems unlikely to be renewed.

The back-door budget legislation is plainly about closing abortion clinics. It is about making abortion less available, though it is legal and most Americans — and Ohioans — think it should be.

Advocates of the anti-abortion amendment say they are protecting Ohioans’ tax dollars. They say they do not want taxes supporting abortion — a moral choice they abhor. But what about the majority of citizens who think abortion should be legal and available?

This is not oppression of a religious minority, but rather oppression by a theocratic minority. This misuse of the budget, and of Ohio public policy making, represents the imposition of the minority’s will on the majority.

This is a matter not of conscientious objection, but of political bullying. Ohio lawmakers are moving severely to restrict abortion in the state, and to nullify federal law.

In an appearance this week at Bowling Green State University, Gov. John Kasich refused to say whether he would veto the anti-abortion budget amendment if it reaches his desk, although he repeatedly reminded his audience that he is “pro-life.” His Republican Party’s right wing presumably would be outraged if he did not approve the amendment. But does he think Ohio women would agree with the wholesale closing of abortion clinics?

And does the governor really think this is the way to make law? If state lawmakers want to shut down the clinics, they should explicitly introduce specific legislation for that purpose. Sneaking such action into the budget, and using the budget as a weapon against women, is as cowardly as it is cruel.



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