What does it look like when seven men ignore seventeen thousand of their constituents?
It looks like this: Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich, flanked by six other men, signing the state’s new budget into law and, by doing so, catapulting the Buckeye State to the number one spot on the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws list.
The budget strips funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare, and gives that money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the pseudo-clinics that lure pregnant women with the promise of free ultrasounds and can then misinform them about abortions. That’s just the beginning.
It also strips funding from rape crisis centers that advise rape survivors about abortion, a Midwest version of the Bush administration’s global “gag rule.” The restrictions it places on abortion clinics, known as “TRAP laws,” are designed to be so hard to adhere to that many of the clinics in the state will be forced to close.
There’s more: Ohio now requires a patient to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before they have an abortion, whether their doctor thinks it’s necessary or not. And the state won’t be paying for that state-mandated ultrasound–the patient must.
As if that weren’t enough, Ohio doctors will now be forced to tell any patient who wants an abortion about the fetus’s heartbeat. A doctor will have to read from a script, written by politicians with no medical knowledge, whether or not the doctor believes that the script comports with medical understanding of pregnancy.
Finally, these restrictions include in the definition of “person” a fertilized egg that has not yet been implanted in the uterine wall–which could reclassify having an IUD as murder in the state of Ohio.
Kasich ignored the voices of over 17, 000 citizens who signed a petition asking him to veto the anti-choice amendments in the budget. But the budget, as Planned Parenthood President and CEO Cecile Richards said, was “must-pass legislation."
Republicans in Ohio are implementing all the policies that have been put in place in other states, all at once, to make abortion virtually inaccessible to Ohioans.
Even though abortions are still technically legal, they will be so hard to obtain that the constitutional right to privacy ensured by Roe v Wade is a right that millions of Ohioans will now be unable to exercise. As in many other states, some of these policies come with the veneer of protecting women’s health (in Pennsylvania a 2012 mandatory transvaginal ultrasound bill was perversely called The Women’s Right to Know Act).
Were this really about healthcare, Ohio wouldn’t be closing healthcare facilities and funneling money into centers that misinform their “patients.” Were this really about healthcare, Ohio wouldn’t be denying rape survivors information about abortion and forcing them to continue pregnancies. Were this really about healthcare, Ohio wouldn’t be insisting that legislators know more about reproductive health than doctors do. Were this really about healthcare, Ohio wouldn’t contend, against all medical evidence, that forced birth is safer than voluntary abortion.
This isn’t really about healthcare. This is about ignoring medical evidence, waving away public health experts, and overriding the thousands of Ohioans who protested and petitioned. At its core, these restrictions are about deciding that some citizens of Ohio will be denied access to their constitutional rights, even if it kills them.