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Ohio Still Fighting Women's Choice

By Pete Shuler · November 15th, 2001 · Statehouse
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There's a family planning center in my neighborhood that performs abortions. Every Saturday morning, protesters appear to wave poster-size pictures of aborted fetuses and to yell slogans to the generally oblivious people whizzing past on their weekend errands.

Like these protesters, many of this country's lawmakers believe life begins at conception and therefore abortion is murder. The laws of many states reflected this belief and outlawed abortion until 30 years ago, when, in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional. Barred from the outright prohibition of abortion, some legislators around the country have since battled abortion by restricting it.

Few legislatures have worked harder than Ohio's general assembly. From bans on partial-birth abortions to parental notification to mandatory counseling and waiting periods, Ohio's Republican-dominated statehouse has passed nearly every type of abortion-restricting statute. A review of pending legislation evidences some lawmakers' desire to further limit abortion.

Early this year, Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy, introduced legislation that would create a "Choose Life" automobile license plate, much like plates now commemorating environmental issues, organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, Ohio's universities and the state's professional athletic teams. Of the additional $25 fee for "Choose Life" plates, $15 would go to Heartbeat International, Inc., described on its Web site as a "Christian association of life-affirming pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes and nonprofit adoption agencies." Heartbeat International would also design the "Choose Life" plate.

Last August, Rep. Derrick Seaver, D-Minster, introduced a bill that would require a woman to obtain the consent of the fetus' father prior to obtaining an abortion. Although such consent would not be necessary in cases of rape, incest or when the woman's life or health is in danger, the legislation requires women to prove claims of rape by providing the physician with a police report or other court document. In cases of incest, the bill forces women to provide a physician with a paternity test.

Seaver's bill also requires a paternity test to determine the actual father when two possibilities exist. Women who are unable or unwilling to identify the fathers would be barred from obtaining abortions. The U.S. Supreme Court deemed a similar Missouri law unconstitutional more than 25 years ago.

Even Ohio's budget contains anti-abortion provisions. None of the $1.7 million earmarked for family planning annually may fund abortion services, referrals to abortion services or counseling that includes abortion as an option. Organizations that provide abortions or abortion counseling and wish to receive state funding must prove that the portion of their business receiving public money is physically and financially separate from the abortion-related portion.

Lawmakers also authorized $2.5 million each year for programs that teach and promote abstinence-only family planning and that must not mention either contraceptives or abortion.

Since last year, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486, a drug that aborts a fetus, pro-life groups and lawmakers have focused on legislating it out of existence. Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, recently introduced a bill to do just that. His bill would prohibit the dispensation of RU-486 except in cases in which the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy, effectively outlawing what is widely considered a safe, viable alternative to surgical abortions.

Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, has proposed a bill that could also greatly impact, albeit indirectly, the availability of RU-486. Faber's legislation would allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense any drug if doing so would violate their ethical or moral beliefs. Pharmacists could not be fired for refusing to dispense a drug and could not be held "liable in damages for harm resulting from the refusal."

This last provision indicates the bill's author at least envisioned the possibility of a scenario in which a pharmacist's refusal to dispense a drug could harm, perhaps even kill, another person. Amazingly, this author then drafted language protecting the perpetrator of the harm, not the victim.

If the U.S. Supreme Court grows even more conservative over the next couple of years, the illogical, narrow-minded thinking evident in Faber's bill and in most of Ohio's pending anti-abortion bills could prove dangerous not only to the civil liberties of Ohioans, but also to their health.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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