Protesters gather at Ohio statehouse over abortion issues added to state budget

Several state lawmakers and three doctors addressed the crowd comprised mostly women wearing red and pink and called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the controversial language when the bill reaches his desk.

“This isn’t about one bill or one state, it’s about the unrelenting obsession with regulating a woman’s womb,” said Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland.

Turner said legislators should be focused on issues such as education and jobs instead of women’s medical issues and the abortion provisions have no place in the state budget bill.

The massive state budget bill allocates funds to state departments, local governments and public services, but also attracts numerous earmarks and other proposals that ride the guaranteed budget approval vote into law.

The House inserted two provisions that advocates on both sides say will drastically reduce a woman’s access to abortion. The first provision prioritizes federal family planning dollars so public health clinics receive funding before family planning-only clinics such as Planned Parenthood, and funnels federal dollars to non-medical crisis pregnancy centers. The second prohibits public hospitals from entering into transfer agreements with clinics that provide abortions.

The third provision, inserted into the budget Tuesday night, would require physicians performing abortions to first attempt to detect a fetal heartbeat and share with the pregnant woman the heartbeat and information about the probability of carrying the fetus to term.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, said the measure aims to fully inform women of their pregnancy before they decide to end it.

“Almost every nonbiased study I’ve seen demonstrates that a vast majority of women who see the beating heart of her child or hear the beating heart of her child keep her baby,” Gonidakis said. “I think we can all agree, regardless of where you are on life and choice, that a woman keeping her child is a good thing.”

Dr. Marc Parnes, a Columbus-area obstetrician and gynecologist, said the new language changes the definition of an emergency situation that could threaten the lives of pregnant women.

“You’re asking me to do the same thing as telling a policeman do not pull your gun unless someone is going to die and you’re sure of it,” Parnes said.

After the rally, several people marched across the street to Kasich’s office to present 17,000 letters requesting his veto of the provisions.

A handful of pro-life advocates lined up behind the small rally, holding banners showing aborted fetuses. A truck with similar pictures circled the Statehouse.

Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, said he and others stood at the Statehouse to represent the unborn women and children that are aborted. Harrington disagreed that adding the measure was an undercover move.

“Lives are at stake and these legislators have taken an oath to protect unborn children and do what’s right for that so they feel a need to do whatever’s necessary and if means putting it in the budget, then so be it,” Harrington said.

Advocates for both issues walked inside the Statehouse to watch debate expected to last all day and into the night. Both GOP-controlled chambers are expected to pass the budget bill without help from Democrats and send it to Kasich for his signature this weekend.

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