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The Future Of Abortion In Ohio

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe –vs- Wade ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court. And ever since that decision that allows legal abortion in the first trimester, groups opposing abortion have been slowly chipping away at it. And there could be more restrictions in the future. An estimated 55 million abortions have occurred since the landmark Roe versus Wade ruling in 1973. But since that time, Ohio’s legislature has taken steps to lower the number performed in Ohio. State lawmakers have restricted the practice, requiring a short waiting period for women seeking abortions, mandating parental consent for women under the age of 18 before they could have an abortion, and banning abortions past the point that a fetus is considered viable. Mike Gonadakis with Ohio Right to Life says it’s paying off.

We are at an all time low in the number of abortions in our state’s history. We dropped 12 percent from the previous year.

But Gonadakis is quick to point out that his group will be pushing Ohio’s newly seated general assembly to take up legislation that would restrict abortion even more. "Take federal (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) dollars that each state gets on an annual basis to help Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Social Services, and other facilities that are in Appalachian Ohio where pregnant women may not have health care and prenatal care and make sure they have those options and they are well known. That’s a piece of legislation that we are going to fight for hard and put a lot of effort behind there. "We currently work with Attorney General Mike DeWine on his foster care advisory board, and we hope to introduce legislation to the general assembly in the next 30 to 45 days, opportunities to tweak our foster care laws to help children in the system get adopted out in a more efficient manner and provide a safety net for them as well. "And then adoption. My wife and I just recently finalized our second adoption of our son here in Ohio. We’ve personally identified ways to make the system better, and I know there are groups out there like the Dave Thomas Foundation who want to find ways to make adoption more affordable and more available." Gonadakis says his group will also, once again, back a proposal that failed to make it through the legislative process in the last general assembly that would have taken federal dollars away from Planned Parenthood and given the money to local community health centers, instead. Gonadakis should find support in the legislature for many of his ideas since Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one. Kellie Copeland with the NARAL Pro Choice Ohio worries about that. She says state legislators passed more restrictions on abortion in the last session than anytime during the past ten years.

We are concerned that the anti-choice super majorities in the legislature which were created by gerrymandering are going to, once again, move to outlaw abortion in Ohio and to defund family planning services. So we are going to work with pro-choice Ohioans across the state to lobby their legislators and I think even more importantly Governor Kasich to ask them to stay out of women’s personal private medical decisions.

Copeland says the fact is that young women of child bearing age are starting to realize what’s at stake politically when it comes to abortion rights. "The younger generation has grown up with the expectation that they will make their own health care decisions without having to consult their local politicians. And as they have watched anti choice forces get more and more involved in their personal lives, they have pushed back very sharply. "I think that was evidenced in the last election. If you look at how younger people and women in particular voted, they voted for pro choice candidates. And they are saying enough is enough. There’s no word yet on whether the Ohio legislature will take up the controversial heartbeat abortion bill that was squashed by the Republican led Ohio senate last time around. Former Senate President Tom Niehaus said he had questions about that bill’s constitutionality. But backers of that plan say it was indeed constitutional and they are lobbying for lawmakers to bring it back and pass it during the next two years.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.