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Gubernatorial Challenger Sees Women's Issues In State Budget As Key Battlefront

The Democrat who would like to be Ohio’s next Governor is taking on Ohio’s Republican Governor and legislative leaders over the newly passed state budget. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the fight against the new budget is being pursued in different ways.

Democrat Ed FitzGerald says Governor Kasich and Republican lawmakers were trying to pull a fast one on Ohio voters when they passed several provisions in the state budget that dealt with abortion and birth control

FitzGerald – If Governor Kasich and his Republican allies really believed that these extreme measures when it came to women’s health were something the state agreed on and they believed in their position, they wouldn’t have done it in the dead of night and inserted it in the budget in the 11th hour the way they did.

FitzGerald says the budget measures that put restrictions on abortion clinics, doctors and reprioritize funding for family planning will be a political problem for Governor Kasich.

FitzGerald – Do I think it’s good for Governor Kasich politically to insert himself between a woman and her doctor?  No.  Do I think it’s going to hurt him politically? Yea, I do.

FitzGerald says he thinks a legal fight is in the works for some of these provisions because they violate freedom of speech issues.  And he says he’s been part of a group looking at starting an initiated statute effort, much like the one used a few years ago to bring about a statewide smoking ban, to force the legislature to come back and get rid of the provisions affecting women.  He thinks that’s something he thinks could happen.

FitzGerald – I have a feeling when they hear, not just from myself, but an entire coalition that will represent the vast majority of women in Ohio and some men as well, I think there are some politicians in the legislature rethink this.  You know it’s much easier to vote for something when you don’t have debate and discussion about it than when you actually have to defend your vote to your constituents.  That never really happened in this process.

FitzGerald says if the initiated statute effort starts and lawmakers don’t get rid of these measures, Democrats and their supporters will collect signatures to put the issues on the ballot in the fall of 2014. 
Pelanda – Well it’s easy to pick apart certain aspects of a 4000 plus page budget.

That’s Republican house member Dorothy Pelanda.  She and her colleague, Republican Representative Nan Baker, gather with a group of female budget supporters across the street from Democratic Party Headquarters.  The women say the party doesn’t speak for them.  Baker says the women’s issues in the budget were properly vetted.  And she says the criticism about a bill involving rape crisis centers is especially unwarranted.
Baker – It’s a great bill, unanimously supported.  How can we now be hypocritical and say now that oops….I didn’t know what I voted for? That just doesn’t make sense to me.

Democrats say they back that bill that gave funding to rape crisis centers but were led to believe a part of the legislation that prohibits counselors from talking about abortion as an option would be removed.  It wasn’t.  But Baker doesn’t think the Democrats are interpreting the legislation correctly anyway.

The fight over the women’s issues in this budget continues even as the whole legislature has adjourned for the summer.  But the fight is just heating up.  Democrats have set up a new website and they are hoping to use it to mobilize efforts to fight in court….and in the court of public opinion between now and Election day next year.