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Abortion rulings spark protests and praise in Ohio

A crowd gathered at Ohio Statehouse for an abortion rights rally on June 26, 2022.
Roger Ingles
A crowd gathered at Ohio Statehouse for an abortion rights rally on June 26, 2022.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, along with the immediate installation of an Ohio law that bans abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, sparked a flurry of activity throughout the weekend.

On Friday, as protesters started to gather at the Ohio Statehouse for one of the first demonstrations in response to the ruling, Gov. Mike DeWine delivered a statewide address. DeWine, a Republican and longtime anti-abortion politician, called for civility.

“We all need to be kind and respect one another as we debate this issue,” said DeWine, who added that those who oppose abortion need to do more to help pregnant people.

But Pro-Choice Ohio’s Kellie Copeland blamed DeWine and other Republican leaders for creating the state’s current climate, and pushing for restrictions that are taking the choice of abortion away from Ohioans.

“These politicians and organizations have the unmitigated gall to say now, now somehow they are going to be here for people, where the hell have they been?” Copeland asked.

Following DeWine’s address, a federal judge lifted the stay on an Ohio abortion ban that was signed into law in 2019 but was locked in a court challenge. With the injunction lifted, Ohio’s ban on abortions when fetal cardiac activity can be detected – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – went into effect immediately.

That forced abortion providers statewide to call patients and either cancel their appointments or assist them with alternative, out-of-state options.

The crowd outside the Ohio Statehouse continued to grow, as the group of abortion rights supporters marched throughout Friday evening to protest the decision. They chanted and held up homemade signs to show their frustration with Ohio's new reality.

Impromptu protests popped up in other cities throughout the state, including Cleveland and Cincinnati.

On Saturday morning, some neighbors of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, picked up pots, pans and other noisemakers to stand outside his Columbus home and protest his role in expanding abortion bans.

Yost went to federal court and filed the paperwork to have the state’s six-week abortion ban lifted.

The emotions of Ohioans ran the gamut over the weekend.

For some opponents to abortion rights, the ruling was an answered prayer. In some church services throughout the state, where the religious leaders hold anti-abortion beliefs, prayers of praise were offered for the change in Ohio’s abortion laws.

On Sunday morning, congregants at Life Church in Columbus, Ohio offered thankful prayers for the new abortion ban.

“We pray for the women right now. We pray for the men and anybody and everybody who has been involved in this real lie of abortion to try to steal children, to try to destroy the lives of little children,” one of the members prayed.

For other Ohioans, this was a call to political action. Thousands gathered on the Ohio Statehouse lawn on Sunday, carrying signs and chanting for change.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, joined other political leaders, including Nan Whaley, the Democratic nominee for Ohio governor, and Tim Ryan, U.S. Senate Democratic nominee.

Brown said the power is with the people this November when Ohio holds a general election for every statewide position along with a U.S. Senate race. Brown said, if they vote for Democrats at all levels, they can affect change.

“By this time next year, the Senate and the House of Representatives will have codified Roe v. Wade. And by this time next year, President Biden will have signed into law a bill to make abortion rights the law of the land," Brown said to a cheering crowd.

A couple of hours later, Whaley and other Democratic leaders gathered at a Columbus area home Sunday evening where they spoke to and solicited donations from people who support abortion rights.

Whaley said November’s election will determine the future of legal abortion in Ohio and across the country, putting political momentum in the Democrat’s corner.

“I think that has changed the way people are thinking about voting. And then you add to the fact that the Statehouse and the governor are way out of step with, I’d probably say, 90% of the population on this issue,” Whaley said.

But Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, disagreed with Whaley’s assessment.

“Well I’d never tell Democrats what to do but if they think abortion is the number one issue facing Ohioans, they are wrong and they know that," Gonidakis said.

Instead, Gonidakis said the factors that will determine how voters cast their ballot this fall will come down to issues like high gas prices, food costs, inflation and economic concerns – not abortion.

In the meantime, he says his organization will work hard to re-elect Republicans and make sure the existing GOP supermajority of lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse pass a bill under consideration that would eliminate all abortions in Ohio.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

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.