June 28, 2013

First it was Texas, where State Sen. Wendy Davis (D.-Fort Worth) successfully held the floor on Tuesday night against an anti-abortion bill in an epic filibuster that’s turned her into a national celebrity and the pink sneakers she wore into an internet meme. (The bill she was fighting, SB-5, which would lead to the closure of all but five of the state’s 42 operating abortion clinics, could still pass in a second “special session” Gov. Rick Perry has called for July 1.)

Then it was Ohio, where the state legislature—amid cries of “Shame on You!”—on Thursday afternoon passed a new budget that included several significant provisions limiting women’s access to healthcare in the Buckeye State. This time, however, there was no Wendy Davis to prevent the legislation from passing—and there couldn’t have been in any case, as the State Senate doesn’t allow filibusters anyway.

Unless Governor John Kasich (R.) vetoes any of the line-items in the budget passed yesterday by Sunday at 11:59 p.m.–unlikely given his stated opposition to abortion in general–what happened yesterday afternoon means that doctors in Ohio will now have to listen for fetal heartbeats before performing abortions and will be required to notify women of their presence before performing the procedure. Even worse, it means that the the state will start siphoning off even more federal funding from family planning organizations, including but by no means limited to Planned Parenthood. What was previously a competitive process whereby the highest quality health-care providers in the state received the most money will be replaced with a schema that does little besides leave Ohio women out in the cold.

“The irony of moving these funds around is that it will do a lot to increase the number of abortions in Ohio, because women can’t get access to contraception” said Stephanie Kight, the President and CEO of Greater Ohio’s Planned Parenthood chapter. “You’ll have more unwanted pregnancies, which could very well result in more abortions in Ohio — the one thing none of us want.”

With regulations like these soon to be on the books, Ohio is unfortunately nothing unique, one of many conscripts in the war on women’s health in state legislatures across the United States. But compared other legislatures that have recently intensified their respective crusades against women’s health, Ohio has distinguished itself in terms of proceedings that seem deliberately disingenuous.

In lieu of public hearings on provisions limiting abortion rights and access to family planning services, pro-life lawmakers essentially tacked those measures on to proposed legislation at the very last minute, rendering it virtually impossible for those directly affected to process them, much less respond in any substantive way. The fetal heartbeat addition, for instance, was thrown in on Tuesday — just two days before the vote. Where was the testimony from doctors? From health-care providers? From women?

Gov. Kasich’s office declined to comment on its plans for Sunday night, but he’s now the only one who can ensure that the people of Ohio are represented fairly and honestly. Let’s hope he vetoes all provisions tossed in before any real counterargument could be formulated, especially those that seek to come between half of his state’s population and its ability to access safe, judgment-free health-care.