Mar 15, 2006

Ohio: The Next Battleground In The Abortion War?

(Toledo, OH) South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed legislation last week that would ban most abortions in his state, setting the stage for a Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, would make it illegal for doctors to perform abortions unless the procedure was necessary to save a woman's life. It would make no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Similar legislation is being considered in Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia.

The state of Ohio, meanwhile, is poised to become one of the principal battlegrounds in what some view as a political war. There are three bills that have been introduced this session related to abortion.

Legislating Life

Ohio House Bill 228 is similar to the South Dakota law. The bill would prohibit abortions in the state, making no exception for cases of rape or incest, and would also make travel to another state for the purposes of obtaining an abortion a felony.

The bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), said the legislative success of the South Dakota law will trigger renewed efforts across the nation to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"This is a legislative movement that is making considerable headway," he said. "We think that the states should decide for themselves about abortion rather than being forced to rely on a federal court decision to act as legislation."

Brinkman likened the debate to that of another contentious issue.

"This controversy is much like that surrounding the death penalty," he said. "We address the death penalty on a state-by-state basis, and the same should be true for abortion."

HB 228, which has 18 sponsors, should be seen as more than just election-year posturing by conservatives, Brinkman said.

"We are getting ready for the first testimony in the House Health committee," he said. "There is clearly a trend across the country in states like Michigan, Georgia and Tennessee to enact legislation that restricts or prohibits abortion, and which will then act as a trigger for the Supreme Court to take another look at Roe v. Wade."

House Speaker Jon Husted promised "at least one" hearing on the bill.

Brinkman's bill is not the only legislation in the House associated with abortion. HB 239 would prohibit public funding for abortion, while HB 469 would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or RU-486, the so-called "morning after" pill.

Left: Ohio House rep Tom Brinkman (R - Cincinnati)

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of Ohio's chapter of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said Ohioans should be "very concerned" about the introduction of such legislation.

"People who care about reproductive rights and who thought they were secure need to wake up," Copeland said. "Rights are in jeopardy now more than any time since the Roe decision in 1973."

Copeland said HB 228 is the most threatening to reproductive rights.

"What is most troubling is that the bill allows for no exceptions, even in the case of a mother's life being in danger," she said. "The supporters of this bill demonstrate a shocking ignorance toward women's health issues."

The hidden costs of such legislation are worrisome, Copeland said.

"Outlawing abortion will only make it more dangerous," she said. "We will wind up with women in morgues and hospital emergency rooms; laws such as HB 228 will push women back 40 years."

Abortion legislation also went into effect in 2005 that requires parental consent for minors and a minimum 24-hour waiting period for any woman seeking an abortion. Copeland said this is part of an "incremental" strategy favored by many pro-life groups.

"By whittling away at reproductive rights, instead of a full-scale assault like HB 228, the strategy is to lull people," she said. "Gradual restrictions are much less noticeable than complete prohibition."

The Governor's Office

Irrespective of action by the state Legislature, the future of abortion in Ohio will remain in the hands of one person: the governor.

Ohio voters have clear choices on the topic.

"I believe in a woman's right to choose," said Ted Strickland, the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate. "I would veto any attempt to outlaw a woman's right to choose if Roe v. Wade were overturned."

Strickland, a U.S. House representative from Ohio's 6th District, said he favors a moderate approach to the issue of abortion.

"Abortion should be safe, legal and rare," he said. "And, in Congress, I have supported middle-ground legislation on this subject, such as the partial-birth abortion ban."

Jim Petro, the Republican state attorney general, received the endorsement of a prominent pro-life group.

"I have worked tirelessly to advance the pro-life agenda and have taken an activist approach to specifically advancing the pro-life cause in Ohio," he said in a prepared statement. "I'm proud the Ohio Right to Life Political Action Committee has recognized my commitment protecting unborn life."

Petro did not specifically address the question of whether he would sign legislation banning abortion in Ohio.

Republican Ken Blackwell, the Ohio Secretary of State, did not respond to calls or e-mails regarding his position on abortion. His campaign Web site says Blackwell's "opposition to abortion has been steadfast and consistent," and that he would advance a culture of life" if elected governor.

Copeland said pro-life advocates may try another tactic.

Left: Taft - lame duck strategy?
"It is entirely possible that a lame duck Governor Taft might be used to sign anti-abortion legislation after the election," she said. "Using this approach, no one would have to take the heat for a politically unpopular decision."

Taft, traditionally a strong pro-life politician, did not return calls for a statement on the proposed abortion legislation and whether he would sign such a law.

Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Bob Taft, declined to speculate on whether the governor would sign any particular piece of legislation.

"HB 228 is currently under legal review, and that is all we can say about this bill," Rickel said.

Taft took political flack from conservatives in 2002, when he named pro-choice Republican Jennette Bradley as lieutenant governor.

Copeland said the political fallout from legislation banning abortion could be severe.

"The vast majority of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned," she said. "Politicians who move to outlaw abortion will pay a tremendous political price at the polls."


Anonymous said...

HB 228 will never make it to the floor. The others might, though.

Stephanie said...

"Copeland said HB 228 is the most threatening to reproductive rights."

I really think Copeland's wrong there. The right to abort your baby isn't the most essential reproductive right, even for many who promote abortions.

"...HB 469 would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or RU-486, the so-called "morning after" pill."

This one seems much more dangerous. Even if you share Strickland's goal to keep abortion "safe, legal and rare," the first step is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Birth control and the "morning after" pill are essential to attaining that goal.

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

"228...would also make travel to another state for the purposes of obtaining an abortion a felony."

Obviously he has not read the United States Constitution lately...regulating interstate commerce is the business of the Federal government.

While I support the right of a given pharmacist (or whatever) to refuse to do something, I hope they won't be protected from firing if they don't disclose such reservations when they're hired (i.e. I hope drugstores can refuse to hire pharmacists who won't dispense the meds, or can fire people for not dispensing them if they have a will-dispense policy).

BTW Mike, RU-486 is the "abortion" pill, not the "morning-after" pill...I think there's a misplaced "or" in your sentence.

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

Went back and read HB 469...the way I read it, someone can't disciplined for refusing to provide the state with the chemicals for a lethal injection. That's hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League has their facts straight. Roe was decided in '73 not '72. You would have thought they would have at least gotten that one right.


historymike said...

That was a typo on my part (since fixed).

Full case name: Jane Roe, et al. v. Henry Wade, District Attorney of Dallas County

Citations: 410 U.S. 113; 93 S. Ct. 705; 35 L. Ed. 2d 147; 1973 U.S. LEXIS 159

Prior history: Judgment for plaintiffs, injunction denied, 314 F. Supp. 1217 (N.D. Tex. 1970);

probable jurisdiction noted, 402 U.S. 941 (1971);

set for reargument, 408 U.S. 919 (1972)

Subsequent history: Rehearing denied, 410 U.S. 959 (1973)

Anonymous said...

Pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to distribute birth control or morning after pills if it violates their values. They should be assured that they will face no legal reprecussions.

Pharmacists should be required to disclose their view on this subject to their employer.

Employers should have the right to fire a pharmacist for not dispensing birth control and not face legal reprrecussions.

It's all about the freedom of the individual to do what he thinks is right. Government should not impose its values on employers or employees.


Peahippo said...

Pharmacists who refuse to dispense legal medications (legally prescribed by doctors for THEIR patients -- note that they are not the pharmacists' patients) on the basis of so-called "values" should not remain licensed by the state. So go right ahead, Mr Pharmacist, and place a non-medical, pseudo-religious judgment on your duties ... you're out of your profession immediately, as far as I'm concerned.

Pharmacists are going to die out, anyway. There really isn't much that a pharmacist can or will do that cannot be equally done by machine or "a more efficient operation" (read: a central operation with low-paid bottle-stuffers using an energy-intensive delivery system). Even today, pharamcists are being shared between multiple sites instead of just having one dedicated pharmacist per site. When citizens start using the "pharmachines" (automated pill dispensers), there will be few value judgments applied ... except when some religious nut who owns the machine decides to not stock certain items, granted.


-Sepp said...

"The vast majority of Americans do not want to see Roe overturned," she said. "Politicians who move to outlaw abortion will pay a tremendous political price at the polls"

Strange that the pro-abortion crowd shudder at the idea of abortion ever being on the ballot. Want to end the controversy? Put it on the ballot and let the "majority of Americans" decide. I can live with the results wherever the chips fall. Can they?

Stephanie said...


Doing away with pharmacists in favor of machines? Now that's scary! There are enough mistakes with perscriptions already, I'd hate to have to rely on low-paid bottle stuffers to get the medications my family needs. Besides, a machine can deal with all the rigamarole the insurance companies make you go through, a pharmacist (at least a good one) can and does. There's a lot more than just dispensing pills to this job.

Hooda Thunkit said...

IMO, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, eventually.

Eventually meaning in 50-100 years after the political climate has had time to change/mellow and human life again becomes cherished.

With the current us vs. them acrimonious, “win at all costs” climate, the issue is more useful as a weapon...

momandkids2004 said...

So your telling me that if i got raped at the age 15 I coulden't get abortion, i would have to live the reat of my life with some mans baby and be remined of that day. Im not saying i woulden't love him/her , but thats not the point, or insest I don't think anyone would want to keep their baby from someone in the family,unless there was something wrong with them.Let Roe V. Wade have this done to him or someone in his family and see how he would take it.Would he keep a baby from rape or insest I think not.

Kate said...

I was here for the start of this debate and the fight for women's rights. I can tell you that with the exception of those that have developed selective memories - none of us wanted to see what is happening to occur.

We've seen the wholesale devaluation of our young female population and the demeaning of their human sexuality and sadly - following this – the wholesale devaluation of our precious young women's offspring. It's been pushed to a point that it is being debated, upon household income, which has the right to be born.

As an original libber - I say that all of our women's offspring have value. They have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Women do not need to apologize for 'becoming pregnant' by killing their children.

Women unite. Demand better. Demand accountability from men, employers and communities.

Our babies are not garbage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kate said...

This is probably going to be an unpopular thing to say but it is one of the things I do best.

In all of this discussion, it seems to me that our young women are being taught they and their children are diminished in value. That to terminate their pregnancy is a merely a birth control option.

Whether you agree with abortion or not - should we not be educating young girls about self-esteem? And the worth of their children?