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Year In Review: The Fight Over Women’s Issues
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Backers of the “Heartbeat Bill,” a plan that would ban abortions at the point a fetal heartbeat is detected, started out the year by sending Teddy Bears with beating hearts to Ohio Senators.
Heartbeat Bill backer Janet Folger Porter said thatâ€™s the heartbeat of an 18 week old fetus. The sweet-looking bears were given to Senators to encourage them to pass the heartbeat bill that was passed in the house in 2011.
Then a few weeks later, on Valentines Day, the sweet smell of red roses filled the Statehouse as Folger Porterâ€™s group sent lawmakers flowers to, once again, urge passage of the bill.
Republican Representative Lynn Wachtman, the sponsor of the legislation, assured reporters the roses were not a gimmick.
I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a stunt. I think sending a message about roses speaks volumes about how many of us in the house and senate care about the unborn. Iâ€™m not sure thereâ€™s anyone you can care for more than them.
But while heartbeat bill backers were sending bears and roses, opponents of the legislation were sending messages to Senators, urging them to thwart the bill. Opponents said the climate at the Statehouse had become a war on women and dubbed male lawmakers supporting the legislation the â€œmasters of the uterus.â€ Democratic Senator Charleta Tavares:
We are no longer chattle. We no longer belong to condescending patronizing men who want to tell us whatâ€™s best for us. They donâ€™t live in our bodies.
As the battle over the heartbeat bill continued, its backers took a harsher toneâ€¦.airing television ads in Senatorâ€™s districts, urging abortion opponents to put pressure on their senator to pass the bill.
But Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus, a main target of those messages, remained concerned about the billâ€™s constitutionality.
“There are a lot of well meaning people who are sending emails to take action on a piece of legislation where frankly, they had no indication of what the implications are.,” Niehaus says.
Senators werenâ€™t the only ones questioning the billâ€™s constitutionality.
Ohioâ€™s largest anti-abortion group, Ohio Right to Life, came out against the bill, and county Right to Life organizations began splitting off from the state group because of that opposition.
Ohio Right to Life made some leadership changes over the summer, and after the presidential election, the groupâ€™s opposition to the Heartbeat Bill was silenced.
But Senate President Niehaus continued to oppose the bill, so much so that he used a maneuver to put it in committee where it couldnâ€™t be passed by the end of the year.
Thatâ€™s when Folger Porter issued this warning to Senators to pass a discharge petition in an attempt to go around Niehaus.
Because if they donâ€™t care enough to sign that discharge petition, then I donâ€™t care enough to ever help them again.
But outgoing Senate President Niehaus wasnâ€™t swayed, and the bill eventually died.
But it wasnâ€™t the only one that sparked controversy. Ohio Right to Life backed another bill that would have taken government money for family planning away from Planned Parenthood.
Gonadakis â€“ “We have over 290 facilities in the state of Ohio; approximately 160 community health centers and about 130 local departments of health where young women are going that are need based,” said Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonadakis.
“And thatâ€™s where these funds should be going. They should not be going to the nationâ€™s largest abortion provider.”
Planned Parenthood stressed no government funding is being used for abortions. And the organization pointed out that abortions make up a small part of its services. Backers of the group, like Democratic State Senator Nina Turner, criticized opponents who wanted to do away with the organization.
Theyâ€™ve got this illusion about abortion that is the rhetoric of the ridiculous.
In the end, it was Senate President Niehaus who stopped the Planned Parenthood defunding bill, just like he did with the heartbeat abortion legislature.
Niehaus said the Senate got the bill too late to give it the serious consideration it deserved.
The new Senate could make a big difference in womenâ€™s issues next year: Backers of both the Planned Parenthood bill and the Heartbeat Bill promise to resurrect them with lawmakers.
And next time around, the Senate will be headed by Senator Keith Faber, a Republican whoâ€™s considered to be more conservative than Niehaus. But opponents of these bills vow theyâ€™ll be back, and if the contentious tone of the debate this year was any indication, the fight over womenâ€™s issues in 2013 will be hard fought.