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Ohio Congressman Switches Stance On Abortion

Ohio Democratic congressman Tim Ryan has switched his position and now supports abortion rights.  Ryan says stories shared by female constituents led him to believe government should be removed from reproductive decision-making. Ryan says the change in position is not for political reasons. He is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Rob Portman. More from Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles.

Tim Ryan entered politics, as a state senator, when he was 26 years old.  Since that time, he’s publicly identified as being against abortion. But in an editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal, Ryan says he’s evolved in his thinking.  He explained, in his own words, how he’s learned more about the issue and how having a son of his own has made his more aware of the complications of parenthood and pregnancies.  Ryan said he’s come to the conclusion that women and their families, not politicians, should make the best decision for their lives.  This change of heart is welcome news to Celeste Ribbins with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.  
Ribbins “We think that’s a wonderful thing.  It’s important that our politicians who create laws that we must abide by understand the challenges that women face and have some compassion and understanding.”  
Ribbins says she believes time and experience has led Ryan to change his position.  
Ribbins “Well, I believe that just in the number of years that he’s been an active politician, becoming a husband, becoming a father, and having the opportunity to speak to more women about their experiences in the health care system with their pregnancies – all of that comes together to shape his belief.  
But Mike Gonadakis with Ohio Right to Life thinks Ryan’s explanation is bogus.  Ryan has been widely mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate to run against Republican US Senator Rob Portman in 2016.  And Gonadakis believes Ryan’s decision on this issue is politically motivated.  
Gonadakis “Now as he puts his finger in the wind to determine how he can be the nominee for the Democrats in 2016, he flip flops on this issue.”  
Gonadakis says Ryan’s reversal on this issue will hurt him in the long run.  
Gonadakis “I think he would have been held a lot more credible if he would have stood up and said ‘I want to run for Congress and I’m pro-life.’ But instead he abandons who he was and who he is in order to hopefully garner favor with I assume the abortion crowd, big abortion donors and the D.N.C. (Democratic National Committee).”  
Gonadakis says he wasn’t surprised by Ryan’s announcement because he has been falling out of favor with those in the pro-life movement for the last few years.  Back in 2009, a pro-life Democratic group, Democrats for Life of America, removed Ryan from its national advisory board. And in 2013, Ryan voted against a bill that would ban abortions past the 20th week of pregnancy.  A political science professor at the University of Akron says some voters might see Ryan as a flip flopper in the short term. But John Green doesn’t think Ryan’s change of heart on this issue will seriously hurt him.  After all, Portman changed his own position on the gay marriage issue back in 2013.  
Green “Both Senator Portman and Congressman Ryan have positioned themselves well on these types of issues given their partisanship and the competitive nature of the state.”
Green says the timing of Ryan’s announcement is good because he’s not running as a candidate for anything right now.  
Green “The costs diminish over time.  The longer before an election, the less likely that it is to be a campaign issue.  And this is because people come to adapt and accept the position of a candidate.”
But time is of the essence right now.  If Ryan does intend to run for the Democratic nomination against Portman, he will need to announce and start fundraising soon.  Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati City Council member, has already announced his intention to run and has started a fundraising effort.  And Portman has more than five and a half million dollars on hand in his campaign war chest right now.

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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