Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal, a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of our time.”
The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it, utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered babies.
Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention.
“Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion and injustices like this,” he says.
Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event.
“It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the petition reads. “Fountain Square is a family friendly public space and such footage is not appropriate in this venue. Their viewing date is Thursday, July 11, 2013, stop this from going forward.”
Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S. Constitution.
“If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.”
In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts.
Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too “gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for declining to hear the case.
For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.”
Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is undoubtedly in danger.
“You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says.
Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option.
Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget.
If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.
FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights.
The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals.
The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood.
The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims.
Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth.
FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive,
plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.
Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions.
CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.
The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).
Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses, which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal groups have criticized the plan.
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing, research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything, they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education and human services.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of ‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts — effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local property values.
The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.
Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would permanently remain.
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the nation.
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
Ohio legislators today reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, even as questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.
The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
In the past, some of Ohio’s anti-abortion groups,
including Ohio Right to Life, raised concerns about the heartbeat bill
because they said it could lead to legal challenges that would endanger
the anti-abortion movement.
So far, Ohio Right to Life’s concerns might be proving true in North Dakota. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in that state after deeming it unconstitutional.
“The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002.
Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
When contacted earlier today, Ohio Right to Life said it’s not providing comment on the bill yet.
Abortion-rights advocates are already standing against the proposal, which they call “the heartless bill” and an attack on women’s rights.
“Here we go again,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “A month after Gov. Kasich signed one of the worst anti-choice bills in the nation that is already closing abortion facilities, you’ve got this group coming back and saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not good enough. You have to outlaw abortion before women even know they’re pregnant.’ ”
Forty of 99 legislators in the Ohio House have signed onto the bill, according to The Associated Press. The Ohio Senate majority caucus and Gov. John Kasich have so far declined to comment on the bill when asked by various reporters.
In June, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich passed a two-year state budget
that imposes regulatory hurdles that make it more difficult
to get an abortion in Ohio and have already forced various abortion
clinics to shut down in Ohio.
An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would add more restrictions to obtaining a legal abortion in Ohio, and some of the requirements may force doctors to provide medically inaccurate information.
With an exception for medical emergencies but not rape or incest, House Bill 200 would increase the waiting period on abortions from 24 to 48 hours.
The bill would also force doctors to give patients, verbally and in writing, a slew of warnings 48 hours before an abortion procedure.
Among the requirements, doctors would have to explain medical risks that the legislation claims are associated with abortion, including infection, hemorrhage, cervical or uterine perforation, infertility, risks to subsequent pregnancies and the increased risk of breast cancer.
The bill would also require doctors to provide a description of fetal development with colored photographs and “the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the embryo or fetus at that age.”
As part of the bill, pregnant women seeking an abortion would be forced to get an ultrasound two days before a procedure. During the process, doctors would have to provide a verbal description of the ultrasound, including whether there’s an audible heartbeat, and a written and verbal description of whether the pregnancy is viable. If the pregnancy is not viable, doctors would be required to tell patients that a miscarriage is likely even if the patient doesn’t get an abortion.
The most extensive research has
found that, barring rare complications, induced abortions are not linked to the medical risks listed in the bill.
Regarding infertility, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cited four studies, concluding that, “Published studies strongly suggest that infertility is not a consequence of uncomplicated induced abortion. There are small discrepancies among studies, but none of these studies was of sufficient power to detect a small association."
The American Cancer Society has a page on its website dedicated to abortion and breast cancer, which claims, “The largest, and probably the most reliable, study on this topic was done during the 1990s in Denmark, a country with very detailed medical records on all its citizens. … After adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors, the researchers found that induced abortion(s) had no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. The size of this study and the manner in which it was done provide good evidence that induced abortion does not affect a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.”
House Bill 200 must first work through committee before it gets a full vote from the House. Its chances of passing the 99-person chamber are so far are unclear.
The bill was introduced by State Rep. Ron Hood, a Republican from Ashville, and co-sponsored by 34 of his Republican colleagues. Among them are several state representatives from the Cincinnati area: Louis Terhar, Louis Blessing, Ron Maag, Wes Retherford and Peter Stautberg.
Both chambers of the General Assembly recently passed budget bills that include anti-abortion policies. On April 18, the Republican-controlled Ohio House passed a budget bill that defunds Planned Parenthood and funds pro-abstinence, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers.
On June 6, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed another budget bill that includes the Ohio House measures. The Ohio Senate also added provisions that ban abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals and allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics that don’t have transfer agreements.
Both chambers are currently reconciling their budget bills through a conference committee, which should produce a final version of the budget for the governor. Gov. John Kasich must approve a budget before a June 30 deadline.
Correction: This story originally said there are no exceptions for medical emergencies, but there is an exception for medical emergencies in the bill. The story has been updated and corrected.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Health and Aging Chairman Lynn Watchman said anti-abortion legislation could come back in the current legislative session. That includes the heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and a plan to defund Planned Parenthood. CityBeat wrote about the anti-abortion legislation last time Ohio Republicans tried to bring it up here.
One Ohio Now, a group focused on the state budget, has a few requests
for Gov. John Kasich. They don’t want an income tax cut when the
revenue could be used to expand Medicaid and raise school funding. In other states, a Medicaid expansion correlated with better health results, and one study found expanding Medicaid could save Ohio money. More school funding could also make up for the last budget's massive cuts to education, which are explained on a county-by-county basis at Cuts Hurt Ohio.
While the state government is tearing down solar power initiatives, Cincinnati is working to update Green Cincinnati. Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin told WVXU, “We’re broadening the plan to be not just focused on climate protection, but more broadly on all areas of sustainability.” He added, “It’s going to show us how Cincinnatians can live a better lifestyle using less resources.” The plan was originally drafted in 2007 and adopted a year later to prepare the city for changing environmental realities.
Last year was good for local home sales. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says home sales were at the highest levels since 2008.
A federal judge ended most of his court-mandated oversight of Ohio’s youth prisons last Friday. The ruling shows how much progress has been made in state youth facilities, according to Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates.
Ohio Democrats are now calling for Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar to resign. Terhar is facing criticism for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”
Amy Murray is running for City Council. Murray was appointed to City Council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left and became Hamilton County commissioner. But she lost her seat in the 2011 election, which swept Democrats into City Council.
Cincinnati and Columbus airports saw a drop in traffic, but it seems Dayton International Airport more than made up for it.
The National Council of Teachers wants Ohio to make its colleges more accountable and selective.
An investigation into the massive accident on I-275 could take days. The accident, which is believed to have caused at least 86 cars to crash, led to the death of a 12-year-old girl.
Blockbuster still exists, and it’s shutting down stores and cutting jobs.
A smoke screen company wants to use its product to prevent more school shootings. The smoke screens fill up a room with non-toxic smoke on demand, which could obscure a shooter’s vision.
Update for any women looking to have a neanderthal baby: The Harvard scientist was only saying it’s a possibility someday.
A tea party-backed pension amendment yesterday cleared the hurdle of 7,443 petition signatures required to appear on the November ballot. Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the amendment, had previously paid nearly $70,000 to petitioners to gather signatures. The amendment would privatize pension plans so the city and city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to individual retirement accounts that the employee would then manage by independently selecting investments. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for Social Security, which means they’ll lack the safety net that typically comes with risky 401k-style plans. If workers do qualify for Social Security, the city would have to pay into the federal entitlement program, which would cost the city more money, according to an Aug. 5 report from the city administration.
Cincinnati is cutting ties with SoMoLend, the local startup that had previously partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with $400,000 in loans. SoMoLend has been accused of fraud by the Ohio Division of Securities, which says the local company exaggerated its performance and financial figures and lacked the proper licenses to operate as a peer-to-peer lending business. The Division of Securities won’t issue a final order until after a hearing in October. SoMoLend’s specialty is using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders.
Ohio Republicans are considering bringing back the “heartbeat bill,” the controversial anti-abortion bill that would ban induced abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which could happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill could be reintroduced next week. That would come just a couple months after Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved a slew of anti-abortion measures through the two-year state budget.
The Ohio Senate will today hear testimony from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio about projections that show the state could save money if it takes up the Medicaid expansion. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government will pay for the expansion for the first three years and wind down to paying 90 percent of the costs after that. The Health Policy Institute previously estimated the expansion would save Ohio roughly $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is touting Cincinnati Safe Student Housing, a website that allows university students to pick from housing options that passed a free fire inspection. The website was unanimously approved by City Council following several university students’ deaths to fires, which council members argue could have been prevented with stronger standards.
The new owner of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel says he will reopen the building as a hotel. Alan Friedberg, managing principal of the company that bought the building earlier this year, says the process of bringing back the building will take a lot of time and work, considering it’s now been vacant for three years.
Four Greater Cincinnati hospitals have been recognized for protecting the LGBT rights of patients and employees by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Bethesda North Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. DeWine claims the summary for the ballot initiative is untruthful and leaves out various important details.
Mason, a Cincinnati suburb, was ranked one of the top 10 places to live by CNNMoney. Maybe CNN really likes Kings Island.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to call on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expedite processing on benefit claims. The VA currently has a backlog of 500,000 veterans, according to a press release from Brown’s office.
Introducing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a proposal for a railway system that would use high-pressure tubes to shoot passengers around the country. It’s estimated traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which normally takes about five and a half hours, would only take 30 minutes in the tubes.
Republican state legislators are using the two-year state budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to admit it.
The goal is “to maintain the sanctity of human life,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans.
Most recently, the House-Senate conference committee, which put the final touches to the state budget, tacked on an amendment that requires doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform the woman if a heartbeat is detected. The doctor would also be required to explain the statistical probability of the woman carrying the fetus to birth.
The amendment came in addition to other anti-abortion measures in the budget that would reprioritize family services funding to effectively defund Planned Parenthood, increase funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and impose regulations that the state health director could use to shut down abortion clinics.
Under the regulations, abortion clinics would be unable to set patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic doesn’t have a transfer agreement in place, the state health director could shut it down with no further cause.
The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.
Abortion rights advocates are protesting the measures, labeling them an attack on women’s rights.
“If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “We urge Gov. (John) Kasich to veto these dangerous provisions from the budget. Party politics has no place in a woman’s private health care decision. The time is now to stand up and lead, not in the interests of his party, but in the interests of the women and families he has been elected to lead.”
Dittoe insists Republicans are not attacking women with the measures: “The women in our caucus have introduced some of these proposals. It’s hard to say it’s a ‘war on women’ when you have women actually introducing the legislation. It’s certainly not about an attack on women; it’s about protecting human life.”
Abortion rights supporters rallied today in Columbus in a last-minute stand, calling on Kasich to line-item veto the measures — a move that would keep the rest of the budget in place but nullify the anti-abortion provisions.
Kasich has so far declined to clarify whether he will veto the anti-abortion measures, instead punting multiple reporters’ questions on the issue.
Much of the debate has focused on Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, sexually transmitted infection and cancer screening, pregnancy tests, birth control and various other health care services for men and women.
Supporters point out no public funds go to abortion services, which are entirely funded through private donations. Public funds are instead spent on Planned Parenthood’s other services.
Dittoe says that Republicans still take issue with the abortion services, and it’s the sole reason Planned Parenthood is losing funding.
“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” he says. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget comes from the family planning grants that are being reworked. Not all of that money is allocated by the state government; a bulk is also set by the federal government.
The anti-abortion changes will go into effect with the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the budget today, and Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law this weekend.
Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
Speaking at Bowling Green State University in northwestern Ohio yesterday, Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’d use his line-item veto powers to remove anti-abortion provisions from a budget bill.
When asked about the issue by a student from the University of Toledo Medical Center, Kasich responded, “First of all, I’m pro-life.” He added, “We’ll have to see how this proceeds through the House and the Senate conference committee and have just got to wait and see how it goes, then I’ll make a decision as to whether I think it goes too far or doesn’t, but keep in mind that I’m pro-life.”
The Ohio House and Senate recently passed budget bills that would defund Planned Parenthood and fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers with federal funds. The Ohio Senate, which goes second in the legislative budget process, also added a provision that could be used by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Under the Ohio Senate budget’s new rules, abortion clinics would be unable to set transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked at any time and without cause by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic can’t establish a transfer agreement, it could be shut down with no further explanation by the state health director.
The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s much more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.
State regulations already require transfer agreements between ambulatory surgical facilities, including abortion clinics, and hospitals, but the Ohio Senate budget encodes the regulations into law and adds further restrictions.
Transfer agreements are typically used to provide emergency or urgent care to patients with sudden complications.
Opponents of abortion rights, including Denise Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, have praised the budget measures for promoting “chastity” and “abstinence.”
During budget hearings, several Republican legislators said Planned Parenthood is being defunded in part because it provides abortion services.
Planned Parenthood is legally forbidden from using public funds for abortions. It currently provides the services through private donations.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, criticized the budget bills and Kasich’s lack of clarity in a statement: “This appalling agenda is out of touch with Ohio values and we need Gov. Kasich to pledge to keep it from becoming law.”
The Ohio House and Senate must reconcile their budgets through conference committee before a final version reaches Kasich’s desk. At that point, Kasich could veto the entire bill, reject specific portions with his line-item veto powers or sign the bill in its entirety.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Wednesday announced it is suing the state of Ohio over anti-abortion restrictions enacted as part of the 2014-2015 state budget.
“To put it simply, none of these amendments have any place in the state budget bill,” said Susan Scheutzow, ACLU cooperating attorney and partner at the law firm of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, in a statement. “This massive bill is not intended to deal with new policy; the single subject of the budget should be the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.”
The lawsuit claims the restrictions violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language. In the case of the budget, the ACLU argues that the law shouldn’t go beyond appropriating state funds and tax collection.
The three anti-abortion budget amendments in question ban public hospitals and abortion clinics from making transfer agreements that are required to keep clinics open; order clinics to take government-outlined steps, including showing a patient if a fetal heartbeat is detected, before carrying out an abortion procedure; and create a new “parenting and pregnancy” program that shifts state funds into private organizations that are barred from mentioning abortion services.
“The first two amendments have nothing at all to do with budget appropriations,” said Jessie Hill, ACLU cooperating attorney and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in a statement. “The third is also unconstitutional because it creates and funds an entirely new government program, something that requires stand-alone legislation.”
The ACLU says the lawsuit is about promoting good government that follows the rules, regardless of where any individual stands on the issue of abortion.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Preterm, a women’s health clinic in Cleveland that provides contraception, family planning and abortion services.
One anti-abortion restriction that’s not being sued over: The state budget effectively defunded clinics like Planned Parenthood by deeming their non-abortion services less competitive.
Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved the anti-abortion restrictions with the state budget in June. But Democratic critics say the new rules harshly restrict access to legal abortions protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.