2013 Was a Year of Abortion Restrictions in the Ohio Statehouse

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There are few issues at the Ohio Statehouse that are more polarizing than abortion. And this year, that issue was front and center as lawmakers passed several controversial restrictions as part of the state’s two-year budget plan.

Supporters of legalized abortion, including Democratic State Sens. Capri Cafaro, Charleta Tavares and Nina Turner, said the Ohio legislature was waging a war on women.

“Last time I checked, members of the General Assembly were not elected to be the sex police,” Cafaro said.

“You’re destroying health care for women, and as a woman, I am offended,” Tavares said.

“The language in the budget is anti-women, anti-family, anti-choice, anti-poor and absolutely unequivocally immoral,” Turner said.

But majority Republicans in the Ohio legislature, such as Sen. Peggy Lehner, didn’t see it that way.

“I too am concerned with morality,” Lehner said. “I find the loss of 50 million unborn children something that we should be concerned about."

Lehner and other Republicans voted for bills that made it harder for abortion clinics to stay in business, made it harder for Planned Parenthood to provide birth control services and made it harder for women themselves to get abortions -- much to the delight of John Coats with Ohio Right to Life.

“Let me tell you what an extreme war on women is,” Coats said. “An extreme war on women is that most of the babies that are aborted are female.”

Part of the controversy came about because many of the abortion bills attached to the budget didn’t get full hearings.

That prompted a rally at the Statehouse this past fall.

The passage of these bills sparked a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

There were some abortion bills that didn’t pass -- but might in the future.

One is a bill by Republican State Rep. Ron Hood that would require doctors to do ultrasounds before providing abortions and mandate the women hear an audible heartbeat.

“The purpose of the bill is to attempt to reduce the number of abortions in the state of Ohio,” Hood said.

Another even more restrictive abortion bill that didn’t pass is the controversial bill from last year that would ban abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat could be detected.

And the head of the group that’s been pushing that bill all along, Janet Folger Porter, said it should come to no surprise that her group is still pushing it.

“Did you really think we were going to give up? Really?” Folger Porter said.

To underscore her point, Folger Porter brought in Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of “19 Kids and Counting,” a reality TV show that follows them and their children.

The Duggars raised money and spoke to the media about why it’s time to pass the controversial heartbeat bill.

“In our nation, there is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are being paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children,” Michelle Duggar said.

Ohio Right to Life has never signed on as supporters of the heartbeat bill. And for right now, the organization’s president, Mike Gonadakis, says his group will focus more on adoption than abortion.

In the meantime, supporters of abortion rights, promise to do something else. Maybe there will be a political backlash against the Governor for his support of bills to crack down on abortions in Ohio.

But it appears the measures are having some negative effects on abortion clinics. At the beginning of 2013, there were 14 abortion clinics in Ohio. But at the end of the year, at least three had closed and more are in danger of closing in 2014.

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