How to Prevent the Great #OHBrainDrain
Posted by Guest Blogger
February 10, 2016
Ohio has not always been home. Four years ago, when I received my admissions packet from Otterbein University (of Westerville), I was still calling a little white brick house in Southern Kentucky— the house that back-dropped my entire childhood – my home. Today, I was approved for graduation. In four years, my understanding of home has grown, multiplied, and demonstrated a profound capacity for transplantation. I didn’t just put down roots in Columbus. I didn’t just cultivate social and political values. I didn’t just learn how to effect change. I learned that I could enact change. Here, I was certified by the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio. I marched through the sheets of rain during Columbus Pride, and most recently I stood on the steps of the Ohio State House, and I pledged in pink, echoed by voices on all sides, that my reproductive rights would not be recalled.
Ohio is where I came into power.
Very soon, Ohio Governor, John Kasich will return home from the presidential campaign, will review House Bill 294, and will have to make a decision. This bill is the love child of Ohio’s Right to Life extremists. If Kasich chooses to sign HB294 into law, it will effectively defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. And the most terrifying aspect of this legislation is that it’s being met both locally and nationally with a deafening and resounding silence.
Where is the outrage? The liberal media coverage? Where are the headlines identifying Ohio for what it is becoming: Texas, Part Deux?
Texas’ long and protracted war against Planned Parenthood has inspired significant media attention over the last few years in no small part because we are now capable of measuring the devastation a state which refuses to provide affordable access to reproductive care will inflict on its most vulnerable and marginalized citizens. Those of us fighting for reproductive justice in Ohio are uniquely disadvantaged in our efforts to galvanize momentum and awareness because of the skewed and misrepresented national perception of our state and our Governor as politically moderate. The injuries inflicted against reproductive justice over the last five years in Ohio have been an onslaught of discreet but detrimental intrusions.
How do we refit the old, familiar battle against our basic human rights with a new sense of urgency? How do we pressure Governor Kasich to veto, when his legislative actions have made it abundantly clear that the invasion against our bodily autonomy, our livelihoods and lives is not compelling enough?
At the whim of a governor with whom ethics and empathy will get you nowhere, it’s time to appeal to perhaps the only place the old man can be persuaded to adapt: the economy.
Students attending Otterbein University along with millennials across Ohio have kick-started a social media campaign aimed at exploiting a long-standing insecurity for Ohio politicians when it comes to the state’s future competitiveness in the larger market economy: Ohio’s Brain Drain. Or, as we’re deploying it on Twitter: #OHbraindrain.
The “brain drain” concept is founded on the basis that students who receive their degrees in the state don’t tend to stick around. For instance, Ohio produces more bachelor’s degrees per capita than the national average, but we rank only 35th in the proportion of adults with a college degree. #OHbraindrain stokes Kasich’s fear that Ohio’s millennials have zero incentive to put their skills to use in this state, and links it directly to the loss of access to the judgement-free and affordable healthcare Planned Parenthood provides, for which he’s advocating.
While referring to ourselves as walking talking commodities is less than ideal, #OHbraindrain acknowledges that this is how Kasich already understands the value and import of his constituents. Further, #OHbraindrain offers students and citizens across the US the opportunity to stand together in solidarity: a BioChem major in San Francisco can’t threaten to remove their expertise from Ohio. But they can and will express why HB294 makes the prospect of relocating here unthinkable.
If revoking access to maternal healthcare programs in a state fostering one of the highest infant mortality rates among its citizens of color in the country isn’t enough to convince Kasich this bill will have devastating impacts for Ohioans, the scope of which we can only begin to predict, perhaps the prospect of a mass exodus of Ohio’s educated millennials will.
This is a pivotal moment in the very long and arduous fight for reproductive justice for which generations of activists have been fighting. Now more than ever, it’s important that those with the relative privilege of good benefits or short wait times in the ER do not splinter off, stay home, or stay silent. Ohioans and Americans like me, who have the privilege of mobility, must wield our voices against corrupt governance with the understanding that those to whom the services of Planned Parenthood are most vital, Ohio’s working class, do not have the luxury of relocating. The truth is, I don’t want to leave the state I now call home, but HB294 is an insult to our personhood, and a revocation of our power to choose.
If you won’t protect my body, you don’t get it to profit off of my brain.
by Amelia Gramling, Otterbein University
Follow @OHbraindrain on Twitter for more information on the campaign