COLUMBUS — Some 350 people, mostly women, rallied on the Ohio Statehouse lawn Wednesday to protest new laws seen as restricting access to abortion and contraception.
Some carried signs with images depicting Ohio Republican leaders such as Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, and U.S. Speaker John Boehner as pregnant.
Nancy Hughes of West Toledo felt it was important to be there even though the provisions she protested are law. Democrats have introduced a bill to undo them, but they didn’t have the votes to prevent the laws’ enactment in the first place.
“I think abortion personally is a really bad idea, but it should be legal,” Ms. Hughes said. “I think legal, safe, and rare is a pretty good motto. Women ought to be able to decide for themselves, and they should be able to get one without all kinds of hassles.”
The rally, coinciding with the General Assembly’s return to Columbus after summer recess, also fell the day after the Ohio Department of Health issued an annual report showing that abortions performed in 2012 increased after years of reductions. The number climbed 2.8 percent to 25,473.
“So whatever it is that you think you’re doing, Ohio legislature and Governor Kasich, you’re doing it wrong,” said Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director.
But the number was the second-fewest in a year since 1976, said Ohio Right to Life, which has pushed many recent provisions through the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
“All the work done in 2013 won’t be reported until next year,” said Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president. “The shame is that 42 percent of all abortions were performed on African-American women when they make up 8 percent of our population. …I was affected by the fact that a group of black people were protesting 100 yards away over violence against African-Americans while a group in which the vast majority was white was advocating abortion.
“They are whistling past the graveyard when the statistics show that we’re killing African-American babies,” he said.
In Lucas County, the number of abortions dropped 4 percent from 1,239 to 1,189. This occurred before this summer’s closing of a Toledo abortion clinic, Center for Choice, because it could not reach a mandated emergency-care pact with a local hospital.
The city’s second and last abortion clinic, Capital Care Network, could face the same fate. It is likely to fight for a Department of Health hearing not yet scheduled.
One change put in state law requires abortion clinics to enter pacts with a hospital to provide emergency care if needed but then barred any publicly funded hospital from entering into such a pact.
Another requires doctors to test for a fetal heartbeat with an external ultrasound and then inform the patient seeking an abortion of the presence of that heartbeat and the statistical likelihood the fetus could be carried to term.
The law puts Planned Parenthood at the end of priority line when it comes to distribution of Ohio’s share of federal family- planning funds and threatens the state funding of any rape crisis center that discusses abortion as an option during client counseling.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.