COLUMBUS — If there is a war on women in Ohio, the battles lines have been drawn.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio on Wednesday endorsed the entire Democratic slate of candidates taking on Gov. John Kasich and other statewide Republicans.
Some 30 people protested in Toledo against Capital Care Network, the only remaining abortion clinic in the city that is fighting the state to keep its license.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from a local prayer vigil.
And backers of the so-called Heartbeat Bill banning abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable started what they characterized as their most aggressive effort yet to force reluctant Republicans to stop blocking its passage.
Ed FitzGerald, the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for governor, said Republicans don’t deserve points for preventing the bill from seeing any votes this session. He said it’s a matter of time before this, the right-to-work bill affecting union dues, and other controversial measures move if Mr. Kasich wins re-election on Nov. 4.
“The Heartbeat Bill is one that hasn’t passed yet, but we don’t believe they’re telling their allies that they’re opposed to those things,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Not yet. Wait until we get through this election.’
“If John Kasich was this extreme on women’s issues in his first term when he knew he was going to have to face the voters again, what’s he going to be like when he doesn’t have to face the voters again in Ohio?”
Mr. FitzGerald’s choice last week of former Planned Parenthood board member Sharen Neuhardt made it clear that the so-called “war on women” was going to be one of the key issues in this year’s campaign.
“The Democratic ticket stood with an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year and advocates for late-term abortions,” said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. “Ohio Democrats are joining the likes of Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and saying that those who believe in life are not welcome in the Democratic Party or in a state they would govern.”
Two years ago, the Heartbeat Bill won passage in the Republican-controlled House only to be blocked in the GOP-controlled Senate. The reintroduced bill has seen no legislative action so far this session.
Backers on Wednesday launched a postcard mailer campaign to voters in a dozen Senate districts accusing senators of being hypocrites in their anti-abortion rights speeches at rallies marking the 41st anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, recognizing abortion as part of a woman’s right to privacy.
As part of last year’s budget, Republicans passed and Mr. Kasich signed provisions that required doctors to first perform ultrasounds and provide specific information to patients before performing abortions, prohibited taxpayer-funded rape counselors from discussing abortion as an option with clients, and put Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing family planning funds.
The budget also wrote into law a Department of Health rule requiring abortion clinics to have agreements in place with hospitals to accept a patient in case complications arise, then took the extra step of prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from entering into such agreements.
The department recently ordered an abortion clinic in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville closed after it failed to get such an agreement.
Center for Choice in Toledo closed last summer because it couldn’t get an agreement. Capital Care Network faces a similar fate, but will fight its closing order Feb. 18 before an appeals panel.
“I feel so strongly about pro-life. No matter what, life is always the only choice, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” said Laurie Toth, a nurse who brought her 8-year-old daughter, Kaelie, to a church-organized protest on Capital Care’s grounds.
If the clinic is forced to close, Toledo would become the largest city in the state without an abortion provider.
Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Provance and staff writer Marlene Harris-Taylor contributed to this report.