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Opponents Of Stricter Women's Health Laws Rally At Statehouse

Opponents of Ohio laws limiting access to abortions and other women's health care held a protest at the Statehouse Wednesday, hoping to draw the attention of Governor John Kasich and majority Republican lawmakers. Demonstrators waved signs attacking Kasich and other male GOP leaders for effectively de-funding Planned Parenthood and passing abortion-related restrictions on publicly funded hospitals and on counselors at taxpayer-funded rape crisis centers. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.

About five hundred Ohioans gather on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse, holding signs and chanting.

(chanting: “We won’t go back!")

The group’s speakers say new abortion laws in Ohio are hurting the state’s women.  Dr. Lisa Parerria, an OB/GYN from Cleveland, holds her newborn daughter as she forcefully explains to the crowd why this new law is driving high risk maternity patients out of Ohio. She talks about a couple who’d made the decision to end a problem pregnancy, and says they were required to listen to the fetal heartbeat one final time.

Pareirra – It doesn’t matter that they had heart it a bunch of times before and that one last time might be incredibly painful for them.  I’m forced to require them to do that and offer it to them.  I am also forced to what the probability is of them carrying that pregnancy to term.  These are statistics that are technically not available and a probability that is impossible to determine but this is what the law makes me do.  In addition, because of legislation that passed over a year ago, we have to do viability testing.  And based on the definition of viability determined at my institution, I couldn’t care for Sam and Jennifer.  Instead, I had to refer them to the closest state without a viability law. 

Kellie Copeland with NARAL Pro Choice Ohio says the new restrictions are forcing women to travel out of state to get abortions.  And she says it’s now harder for women, especially low income women, to get birth control.  She says if the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, these new laws are not working.

Copeland – The first abortion report came out for the Kasich administration. Did the number of abortions go up?  3%.  So whatever it is that you think you are doing Ohio legislature and Governor Kasich, you are doing it wrong.  And why?  Because they don’t know and they don’t care.

But Mike Gonadakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, says these new laws were put in place because Ohio lawmakers do care.  He says the disturbing part of the abortion report is that the number of abortions is rising among minorities.

Gonadakis – The alarming figure, Jo, what we see here is an alarming five percent increase in the number of African American abortions and we saw a two percent decrease in white abortions so we have a major problem continuing in the African American community.  The report showed that 42% of all abortions were on single black women and they make up only 8% of our state’s population.  Last year it was 38% and now we are up to 42%.

Gonadakis says the recent anti-abortion laws will actually be better for women’s health by making sure they have proper medical care and informed choices.  He praises lawmakers for passing the legislation.

Gonadakis – As we know the majority of the general assembly, the overwhelming majority, are pro life, elected by the citizens of the state of Ohio.  And I don’t believe there efforts will be successful.  I believe their press conference today is nothing more than a political show.

There’s no doubt there are politics at play on both sides.  In fact, it feels like the campaign season has already started, even if the election for statewide candidates is more than a year away.  Many of the rally participants were holding signs, promising to vote against lawmakers who’ve supported this legislation.  Those who like the new laws say they will fight vehemently to keep them on the books and promise to support lawmakers who will vow to do that.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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