July 25, 2014

Bills to prevent pregnancy after rape given low priority in Ohio

Health & Aging Committee Chairman Lynn Wachtmann

On November 6, two candidates for the United States Senate lost based in part on an extreme view that pregnancies from rape were “gifts from God,” not meriting an exception from the types of strict abortion bans they would like to see enacted.

On the same day, 56 percent of Ohio voters told exit pollsters that they believed that abortion should be legal in “all or most” cases. Only 39 percent support laws banning abortion.

There is clearly a mood among the electorate — nationally and in Ohio — that women should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term after a rape. Even the minority of Ohioans who oppose legal abortion should support any measure that would prevent an unwanted pregnancy, thus eliminating the need for an abortion.

Ohio legislators have an opportunity to make a difference. Four opportunities, actually.

Four bills are currently pending in the Ohio legislature – two in the House and two in the Senate – that expand access to emergency contraception to sexual assault victims. These medications, if taken promptly, can actually prevent implantation and pregnancy from occurring, reducing the need for abortion.

In their zeal to ban abortion and funding to Planned Parenthood, Ohio legislative leaders are in no hurry to rush these bills through their Chambers. House and Senate rules require every bill introduced by the spring to get one “courtesy” hearing before the end of the term. For this reason only, the Ohio Prevention First Act (HB281) was heard in committee last week, after which Chairman Lynn Wachtmann — sponsor of the Heartbeat bill — told the Dayton Daily News:

Wachtman … gave the bill a “complimentary hearing” on Wednesday, but it won’t go any further, at least not this year.

Similarly, the Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) Act (HB 419) will get its first and only hearing this week. Sponsors Nickie Antonio and Nancy Garland will be permitted to testify on behalf of the legislation, take questions from committee members, but the bill will not receive testimony from assault victims, care providers or be submitted for a vote.

The two companion Senate bills remain stalled without even a courtesy hearing scheduled to date, with only three weeks left in the term.

It’s beginning to seem as though abortion opponents are simply playing politics — advancing just those bills that will satisfy their extremist base — rather than advancing policies that could actually reduce unwanted pregnancies and, in turn, the need for abortion.