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· April 25, 2012

Welcome to Ohio Women’s Watch

Welcome to Ohio Women’s Watch. The War on Women is real.  And it’s not just being waged on the nation’s airwaves by outrageous, right-wing broadcasters.  In Congress and in Statehouses all across America, battles we believed were won long ago are being re-fought.  Freedom of choice, contraception, access to basic health care—all are under assault. But this time, the assault is with a breath-taking misogyny that reeks of hostility toward all women. While Ohio women were successful this week in fending off an attempt to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, a stealth campaign against women’s rights has been underway since the beginning of this legislative term at the Ohio statehouse. Five provisions limiting women’s reproductive choice have been signed into law by Governor Kasich:
  1. HB 153 – Bars local public employee insurance plans from covering abortions;
  2. HB 153 – Bars public hospitals from providing abortions, even if they are paid for with private dollars, except in case of reported rape or incest or to save the life of the woman;
  3. HB 79 – Prohibits qualified health care plans from providing coverage for non-therapeutic abortions, specifically health plans offered through the health benefit exchange;
  4. HB 78 – Bans post-viability abortion, requires fetal testing for viability to be performed for abortions post 20 weeks gestation and revokes a physician’s license if provisions are violated’
  5. HB 63 – Makes it more difficult for minors seeking an abortion to obtain a judicial bypass.
As this week’s fight over Planned Parenthood demonstrates, and Ohio Right to Life has gleefully confirmed, the battle on this issue is far from over. Indeed, GOP Leaders have already indicated that they will soon turn their attention to HB 298, a standalone measure that would eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Also waiting in the wings is HB 125, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” that would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.  This can occur as early as six weeks into gestation, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.  HB 125, which is so extreme that even Ohio Right To Life has refused to support it, has passed the House and is currently awaiting action in the Senate. The bill’s extremist supporters recently took out full-page newspaper ads as part of their full-court press for Senate passage. And it appears to be working: Senate President Niehaus has said he will consider bringing the bill to a vote if the two factions of the anti-choice community can reach a compromise. These are just a few of the anti-women bills cascading through the legislature and pending action by our elected officials. (for a full list, see our legislation page) Meanwhile, the assault on women’s rights is raging outside the halls of the General Assembly as well.  Take the so-called “Personhood Amendment” to the Ohio Constitution, for example. Its supporters are circulating petitions to put this measure on the fall ballot this year.  If passed by the voters, the Personhood Amendment would declare that life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized and thus give full legal rights to zygotes. In so doing, it would outlaw some of the most widely used forms of contraception and place IVF procedures in jeopardy.  Never mind that “personhood” is so extreme that it’s been rejected by every state that’s considered it (even Mississippi voters defeated it in a landslide last November); “personhood” supporters are convinced they’ll have better luck in Ohio. And then there’s Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine who has inexplicably decided to join Attorneys General from six other states in filing a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s compromise measure to ensure all women have access to contraception regardless of where they work.  Maybe you thought that as Attorney General, Mr. DeWine’s job was to represent and protect Ohioans, including those who happen to be women. Apparently, Mr. DeWine disagrees. So despite the manifest absence of any Ohio groundswell urging him to act against contraception, Mr. DeWine says he was persuaded to join the suit by the Attorney General of Nebraska. So while Ohio women may have won this week’s skirmish over de-funding Planned Parenthood, it’s clear that the War on Women is alive and well, with many more battles yet to come.  Ohio Women’s Watch will ensure that no sneak attack goes unnoticed and that the women of this state are armed with the facts, arguments, and analyses we need to fight back. For as Elizabeth Cady Stanton said over 100 years ago, so we say now: “To men, their rights and nothing more. To women, their rights –and nothing less.”

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