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Ohio Democrats Hope to Seize on Issue 1 Success, Announce Reproductive Health Care Bills

Hoping to follow the success Issue 1 had at the polls enshrining reproductive care in Ohio’s constitution, Democratic state representatives wasted no time in proposing legislation to repeal the six-week abortion ban and eliminate various other restrictions.

State Reps. Anita Somani and Beth Liston, both physicians, said the plans they have under the “Reproductive Care Act” are only the first steps to undoing abortion restrictions in Ohio, but serve to bolster the changes made when Issue 1 passed with 56% of the vote in last Tuesday’s election.

“Tuesday showed us that Ohioans understand the science, that abortion is a medical decision that should not be made by politicians, but by a patient and their physician,” Somani said in a Thursday press conference.

The new bill seeks to not only upend the state law that instituted a ban on abortion up to six-weeks gestation – which is currently tied up in court– but also to remove transfer agreements for abortion providers that require providers to have hospital privileges within a certain distance from an abortion clinic, along with the 24-hour waiting period for patients to have an abortion.

 State Rep. Anita Somani, D-Dublin, talks with people gathered for the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Bans OFF Columbus rally for Issue 1, October 8, 2023, outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

“Twenty-four hour waiting periods impact those of most limited means, so that is another barrier to care,” Somani said.

The bill would also add “protections for reproductive health information,” prevent discrimination by employers due to reproductive decisions, and create protections for providers against prosecution for reproductive health care, according to Liston.

“Everyone should be able to exercise the rights that are now in the Ohio Constitution,” Liston said.

Somani, who is an OB/GYN in Ohio, said transfer agreements are “unnecessary,” considering anyone taking an ambulance because of a complication, abortion or otherwise, will be taken to the nearest hospital even if the provider administering the care does not have privileges.

What won’t be addressed within the new bill or any future legislation Dems plan to reverse reproductive health restrictions is parental consent, because they say the state already requires it.

“As an OB/GYN, I’ve always had to get parental consent,” Somani said. “Nothing that we’re doing in the Reproductive Care Act, nothing in Issue 1, will change the fact that minors need parental consent.”

Minority Leader Allison Russo stood alongside her fellow state representatives in supporting the new measure, adding that the margin of victory for Issue 1 showed the GOP supermajority was “out of step with where most Ohioans are.”

Liston pointed to the numbers of voters that turned out for the past two elections, Tuesday’s election and the August primary in which voters rejected a measure to increase the threshold to approve constitutional amendments. She said the turnout in those elections indicates an informed electorate, willing to speak out against the issues they don’t like.

 State Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin, speaks at a rally to protect abortion rights. (Photo from General Assembly website.)

Both elections are historically under-attended, the primary because of it’s unpredictability and where it falls on the calendar, Tuesday’s because it fell on an “off year,” meaning it didn’t include presidential election.

Official voter turnout numbers have not been released by the Ohio Secretary of State for Tuesday’s general election, but August’s primary election had a 39% turnout, a vast difference from the much lower, sometimes single-digit turnouts of past August primaries.

“We want people engaged, we’re excited that they are and we’re optimistic that that will bring good things in Ohio,” Liston said.

Issue 1 officially takes its place in the Ohio Constitution at the beginning of December, 30 days after Election Day, but it won’t be implemented without more work to apply the new constitutional standard to abortion-related lawsuits. It also won’t go into effect without a fight from Republican leaders, it seems, who have said they will challenge or work to repeal the measure.

Senate President Matt Huffman’s has pledged to work to replace or repeal the amendment, and 27 members of the House GOP membership sent out a statement saying they will “do everything in our power to prevent our laws from being removed based upon perception of intent.”

“We were elected to protect the most vulnerable in our state, and we will continue that work,” the letter, released Wednesday, stated.

Signing on to the letter were:

  • State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum
  • State Rep Sarah Fowler Arthur, R-Ashtabula
  • State Rep. Tim Barhorst, R-Fort Loramie
  • State Rep. Monica Robb Blasdel, R-Columbiana County
  • State Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia
  • State Rep. Dave Dobos, R-Columbus
  • State Rep. Thad Claggett, R-Licking County
  • State Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery
  • State Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville
  • State Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester
  • State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.
  • State Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville
  • State Rep. Marilyn John, R-Richland County
  • State Rep. Darrell Kick, R-Loudonville
  • State Rep. Angela King, R-Celina
  • State Rep. Roy Klopfenstein, R-Haviland
  • State Rep. Beth Lear, R-Galena
  • State Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield
  • State Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova
  • State Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky
  • State Rep. Melanie Miller, R-City of Ashland
  • State Rep. Tracy Richardson, R-Marysville
  • State Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland
  • State Rep. Dick Stein, R-Norwalk
  • State Rep. Josh Williams, R-Sylvania
  • State Rep Scott Wiggam, R-Wayne County
  • State Rep. Bernard Willis, R-Springfield

Ten of the 27 members who signed the letter have counties in their district whose voters approved Issue 1 on Tuesday night: Ashtabula, Franklin, Licking, Butler, Delaware, Lucas, Union and Clark counties.

Source : Ohio Capital Journal



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