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After Two Unconstitutional Anti-Abortion Bills Pass, We Have to Ask: What’s the Matter With Ohio’s Lame Duck Legislature?

Silhouettes of women back to back
Silhouettes of women back to back
Lisa Wurm,
ACLU of Ohio
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December 9, 2016

This piece was originally posted by the ACLU of Ohio.

It’s lame duck season in the state of Ohio and this year seems like the “super special” version. During the lame duck session, the legislature has just a few short weeks to pass laws before all bills have to start over from scratch in the new year.

In a matter of 72 hours, Ohio’s super-majority party has managed to attach, pass, and push through a nearly unbelievable amount of legislation.

Two of these bills would severely restrict or essentially outlaw abortion in Ohio: one passed this Tuesday, would ban abortion after six weeks and another passed late Thursday night would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

There was hope that, for once, Ohio’s legislators would be able to focus on actual important issues affecting the Buckeye State instead of attacks on clinics and interference with women’s health. Adding these two bills, Ohio legislators have now introduced nearly 20 provisions designed to restrict a woman’s access to abortion since 2011.

Reproductive Freedom Is Under Attack in Ohio…

The Ohio Senate passed the six-week ban, which had been languishing in the Senate for over a year, with no public hearings. It was particularly disturbing to learn that the six-week ban would be attached to an unrelated bill to help children suffering from abuse and neglect.

This unexpected move was made more baffling by fact that the Ohio Right to Life, Gov. John Kasich (R), and Senate President Keith Faber (R) previously have not supported the six-week ban. Ohio Right to Life has maintained its opposition and the governor has declined to comment. Yet, Sen. Faber, made clear that his motivation to support the bill included the recent election and the future of the U.S. Supreme Court.

… And Ohioans Don’t Even Get a Say

A few hours after the six-week ban passed, we learned that the 20-week ban was set to be heard in committee in the Ohio House too. With less than half an hour’s notice before the committee convened, there was virtually no opportunity for anyone to speak out against the bill.

Tuesday morning, despite another late notification for the bill hearing, a small group of people were able to voice their opposition to the legislation. Legislators ignored the pleas of faith leaders and the personal stories of women and families whose lives would be affected by this legislation and the bill passed easily.

Many Questions Remain Unanswered

Why pass a 20-week ban when the six-week ban has already passed? Why would the Senate president suddenly decide to pass a six-week ban when he has been so clearly against it? Will Gov. Kasich veto the six-week ban and sign the 20-week ban to maintain his false “moderate” reputation? Or is the 20-week ban a backup in case the six-week ban is overturned? When will the legislature abandon politician interference and their attempts to insert themselves between a woman and her doctor?

What we do know is that bills passed under the cover of darkness, with little to no public input, are an irresponsible approach to legislation and an affront to an Ohio woman’s right to an abortion in the state. Similar bans that attempt to restrict abortion at different points in pregnancy have already been struck down by courts in Arizona, Idaho, Arkansas and North Dakota.

How many women and families will have to be hurt and how many tax dollars will have to be wasted before Ohio’s legislative leaders get the message to stop interfering with a woman’s health decisions?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the legislators who voted for such draconian legislation are flagrantly ignoring a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and not taking into consideration her health and well-being.

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