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Pro-Choice Advocates Set Out To Change Lawmakers' Minds One Story At A Time

Freedom of Choice Coalition, group of pro-choice advocates, march to the Ohio Statehouse.
Andy Chow
Freedom of Choice Coalition, group of pro-choice advocates, march to the Ohio Statehouse.

A large majority of the House and Senate are made up of lawmakers with strong pro-life stances. And that’s been reflected in several changes to abortion laws in the past few years. Despite those odds, pro-choice groups want to make sure every lawmaker will hear what they have to say on the issue before casting a vote. 

"Repro rights are under attack so what do we do! Stand up fight back!”

A few hundred people marched through downtown Columbus to voice their opposition to abortion restrictions and what they call a violation of reproductive rights.

“Not just for the rich and white, abortion is a human right.”

This is a coalition of pro-choice groups that are fighting their battle on several fronts. They’re against recently approved measures such as banning abortions after a pregnancy reaches 20 weeks and defunding Planned Parenthood. And they’re battling bills that anti-abortion lawmakers have promised to reintroduce at the state and federal levels, including the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which bans abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.

Democratic Minority Leader Fred Strahorn of Dayton backed the group and their call to halt abortion restrictions.

“We should not be putting ourselves between women and their physicians and their health. If you don’t have sovereignty of your own body then in America you really don’t have freedom.”

Jaime Miracle of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio admits they face an uphill battle with a Republican-controlled legislature, which voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year. But she says days like today where they can bring advocates to the Statehouse are important, because lawmakers get to hear straight from constituents.

“Hear how these policies impact the real lives of the people they represent. We saw that last year with bills with people who had co-sponsored the bill when they introduced it and voted against it in the end because they heard stories from real people and how these would impact them.”

Katie Franklin with Ohio Right to Life is encouraged with the direction the state has taken in favor of more pro-life laws. However, nearly 21,000 abortions were performed in Ohio in 2015, which is still too many for pro-life advocates. 

“When we’re witnessing protests like this we understand that of course that changes have happened and we’ve been a big advocate for those changes but abortion is far from rare in the state of Ohio. It’s still happening on a daily basis and by the thousands.”

Miracle and pro-choice groups in Ohio say they’ve seen an uptick in the amount of activists joining their cause, in large part because of the bigger swings lawmakers are taking, such as the passage and eventual veto of the "Heartbeat Bill" last year.

“We’re hearing more and more from people that ‘I’ve never been active before and now I know that I must be active’ because they’re seeing the real danger and you can cry wolf and cry wolf for so long and then people stop and start listening and when you’re no longer crying wolf then things are getting bad and bills are being passed continuously people get motivated.”

In recent years, lawmakers have subtly slipped anti-abortion laws into the budget. So the pro-choice coalition is keeping its eye on it.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.