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Pro-Choice Groups Watch Ohio's Budget, Which GOP Lawmakers Have Used To Restrict Abortion Before

Pro-choice groups say they're watching to see if GOP lawmakers include more abortion restrictions in the two-year state budget.
Pro-choice groups say they're watching to see if GOP lawmakers include more abortion restrictions in the two-year state budget.

Most members of the Ohio House and Senate are strongly opposed to abortion. And that’s been reflected in laws increasingly restricting access to abortion in Ohio.D espite those odds, pro-choice groups want to make sure every lawmaker hears what they have to say on the issue before casting a vote. 

A few hundred people marched through downtown Columbus to voice their opposition to abortion restrictions and what they see as  a violation of reproductive rights.

“Repro rights are under attack so what do we do! Stand up fight back!”

"Not just for the rich and white, abortion is a human right.”

The coalition of pro-choice groups are fighting their battle on several fronts. They’re against recently approved measures such as banning abortions after a pregnancy reaches 20 weeks and defunding Planned Parenthood. And they’re battling bills that anti-abortion lawmakers have promised to reintroduce at the state and federal levels, including the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat -- before many women know they're pregnant.

Democratic Minority Leader Fred Strahorn of Dayton backed the group and their call to halt abortion restrictions.

“We should not be putting ourselves between women and their physicians and their health. If you don’t have sovereignty of your own body then in America you really don’t have freedom.”

Jaime Miracle of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio acknowledges the advocates face an uphill battle with a Republican-controlled Legislature, which voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year. But she says days like today, during which  they can bring advocates to the Statehouse, are important because lawmakers get to hear straight from constituents.

“Hear how these policies impact the real lives of the people they represent. We saw that last year with people who had co-sponsored the bill when they introduced it and voted against it in the end because they heard stories from real people and how these would impact them.”

Katie Franklin with Ohio Right to Life is encouraged by the direction the state has taken in favor of more anti-abortion laws. However, nearly 21,000 abortions were performed in Ohio in 2015, which is still too many opposed to abortion.

“When we’re witnessing protests like this we understand that changes have happened, and we’ve been a big advocate for those changes. But abortion is far from rare in the state of Ohio. It’s still happening on a daily basis and by the thousands.”

Crying wolf

Miracle and pro-choice groups in Ohio say they’ve seen an uptick in the number of activists joining their cause, in large part because of the bigger swings lawmakers are taking, such as the passage and eventual veto of the Heartbeat Bill last year.

“We’re hearing more and more from people that, ‘I’ve never been active before and now I know that I must be active’ because they’re seeing the real danger. And you can cry wolf and cry wolf for so long and then people stop and start listening ... when things are getting bad and bills are being passed continuously. People get motivated.”

In recent years, lawmakers have subtly slipped anti-abortion measures into the budget. So the pro-choice coalition is keeping its eye on it.

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