Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed stringent abortion restrictions into law as part of his state's budget Sunday night, just days after Democratic Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis thrilled abortion rights groups nationwide with her successful filibuster against proposed anti-abortion regulations in her home state.
The provisions in Ohio will make it more difficult for family planning groups to receive funding for preventive care; require ultrasounds for anyone seeking an abortion; and limit abortion providers’ ability to get transfer agreements with public hospitals.
Democrats immediately seized on Kasich's action as a sign that Republicans are out of touch with voters. Elisabeth Smith, spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association, sent out an e-mail late Sunday titled, "This is why Mitt Romney lost in 2012."
"Governor John Kasich, surrounded by a smiling group of Republican male legislators, just signed a bill in Ohio that will defund Planned Parenthood and force women seeking abortions to get medically unnecessary ultrasounds," Smith wrote in the e-mail. "These positions are controversial, unpopular, and well out of the mainstream in any state, let alone Ohio."
Kasich did not take questions from reporters after signing the budget legislation.
“The budget passed by the Ohio state legislature and signed by Governor Kasich last night reflects the pro-life priorities of Ohioans," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political action committee. "Political leaders on both sides would do well to acknowledge the power and drive of the pro-life grassroots to see unborn children and women protected from abortion businesses including American’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. Strengthened abortion clinics regulations, bans on taxpayer funding of abortion, and laws to ensure women are provided with accurate medical information are issues on which we can find common ground.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Marilyn Musgrave, Susan B. Anthony List's vice president of federal affairs said most Americans were comfortable with restricting abortion access. Musgrave said the public has become more concerned about conditions at abortion clinics since the much-publicized trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was recently convicted of first-degree murder for killing three newborns at his clinic as well as involuntary manslaughter in the death of one of his patients.
“This has been a year where the curtain has been pulled back, when people have taken another look at abortion," she said.
At this point, the battle over abortion is poised to move to states such as Wisconsin, where pending legislation would require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and would require abortion providers to get hospital admitting privileges.
In signing the budget, Kasich did veto language in the bill that would prevent him from moving forward with the federal Medicaid expansion. Kasich said he wanted to allow himself flexibility in dealing with the expansion -- an issue that has split Republican governors across the country.
Kasich, who had a rough time early in his tenure, has recovered significantly and now ranks among the more popular governors in the country. He is favored to win reelection next year and is even being mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.