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Anti-Choice Ohio: Stalled But Not Stopped

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December 4, 2012

By Sarah Bernstein, Oberlin College

Agh. Ohio! What are you doinggg? In my past four years of living here, I’ve asked this question a lot, particularly about the state’s attacks on reproductive justice. In the past month, Ohio’s state congress has pushed some extremist conservative legislation. Of course. Ohio just played a huge role in reelecting a president who made birth control about a million times more accessible. No wonder anti-choice bills have been rolling in. You might have heard whispers (or shouts) about “The Heartbeat Bill” and a bill that could “defund planned parenthood.”

If not, here’s an overview & my two-cents about the damage they could do:

HB125 (aka “The Heartbeat Bill”): Like the title implies, this bill threatens to make abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. So aside from policing bodies and morality, why is this bill problematic?

  1. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as soon as six to eight weeks. Most people don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks. So they’ve had one missed period. It happens… and not just when folks are pregnant. But even if someone does know they’re pregnant, getting an abortion within this time frame is often not practical or possible.
  1. The policy proposed is incredibly invasive. Detecting a fetal heartbeat at this stage of pregnancy requires a transvaginal ultrasound. This procedure completely ignores the complexity of peoples’ relationships to their bodies and discounts experiences of rape, sexual assault, or physical violence that could further the trauma of an abortion, and complicate any kind of physical contact.
  1. The Heartbeat Bill ignores the reality of access to abortion in Ohio. Ohio currently has 15 abortion clinics. Only fifteen. To get a safe abortion, most people have to travel several hours from home. AND Ohio has a 24-hour mandatory waiting period so folks either have to make the drive twice or invest in a hotel room. Financial burdens further complicate abortion access. About 15% of Ohio lives in poverty. If someone doesn’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on an abortion, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to acquire that money (and additional money for travel and the necessary hotel room) in the two or three weeks after finding out they’re pregnant. Furthermore, if you’re working multiple jobs and/or have a family to care for, you’re losing even more money and potentially risking your job.
  1. While the mental, physical, and emotional stresses of getting an abortion vary by person and situation, this bill offers little consideration for those with doubts, uncertainties, or fears about abortion. This bill stigmatizes personal traumas and doubts, and actively discourages non-judgmental healthcare. Six to eight weeks is very little time to access any abortion, much less a service in a clinic that the individual feels connected to or comfortable with.

HB298 (aka “Defunding Planned Parenthood”): This bill would reprioritize the distribution of funds for family planning services… stripping $1.7 million dollars from Planned Parenthood clinics.

Anti-Choice organizations argue that Planned Parenthoods offer an “incomplete” selection of “certain and basic health care services” for women and their children. However, Planned Parenthood has 32 clinics in Ohio. 91% of Ohio counties have no reproductive health provider. The state’s attack on Planned Parenthood would significantly limit women’s access to cancer prevention screenings, birth control, STI testing and care, professional counseling services, and educational resources.

Messed up!

Well, there’s good news and bad news. Good news! These bills are not going to pass…. yet. Bad news: They still exist. They’re still here! They’re not gone! Some state senators have questioned the constitutionality of the proposed bills while others, like State Senator Shannon Jones remain “hopeful and confident that [these bills] will come up in the next general assembly.” See. Hasn’t gotten better.

Ohio’s State Senate has not experienced a reproductive justice revelation; they’ve just pushed these bills back. This means we can’t back down. More than ever, we need to understand these bills and their potential damage to Ohio. We need to recognize them as part of a larger national attack on reproductive rights and fight the shit out of them.

Here are some ways how!

–              Make yourself a resource. Make it a priority to stay up to date about local/state/national reproductive politics and inform others around you. Along with the Choice USA blog, these are some sites/online magazines I like to follow: Think Progress, Feministing, Feminist Majority News Digest, and Democracy Now. Local/National news sources can also be useful (just make sure to check multiple sources to get the most accurate information…!) Then talk to your friends, family, professors, acquaintances, cats, anyone who will listen.

–              Support pro-choice and sex-positive organizations in your area. Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Centers are often in need of volunteers for hotlines and offer incredibly comprehensive trainings. They also often need help filing paper work if that’s more your thing. Volunteer to safely escort people into Abortion Clinics. Find out if your school or community has a sexual information/health center and get involved! Decide what level of commitment/ kind of work will be best for you. Supporting these organizations can help keep you and them more positive about the movement. Strength in numbers! So…

–              Develop a community on your campus. Organize a day of reproductive justice education or, team up with other justice organizations on campus or in your community and conduct an intersectional teach-in day. Or set up a temporary education-station/table to encourage others to get involved.

–              Get to know your representatives and senators. Making phone calls and collecting petitions demonstrate to politicians that people (young people!) care. Maintain these relationships. Deliver a petition to them in person rather than mailing it in. Pressure them to represent you and your community.

We’ve kept Ohio from passing other extremist legislation; gonnaaa do it again! Telling stories/passing on information inspires change and working with people you like to make change you believe in can sustain your passion and drive. Stay committed but stay happy. Do well. Do good. Hopefully, Ohio will catch up soon.

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