I have no words.
Bill would outlaw abortion
Ohio legislation would make no exception for rape, incest or to save woman's life. Hearing is Tuesday
By Carl Chancellor
Beacon Journal staff writer
Tuesday has been on Roberta Aber's calendar for some time now.
What she terms ``an extreme piece of legislation'' -- another hot button issue popping up in the middle of this election year -- is scheduled for a Tuesday hearing in the Ohio House, and it has the full attention of the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties.
House Bill 228, as proposed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, would criminalize all abortion -- whether to save the life of the woman or to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Furthermore, it would make it a felony for anyone to take a woman across the state line to obtain an abortion elsewhere.
``What are these legislators trying to do?'' Aber asked.
Her reference was to Brinkman and 17 co-sponsors including two area state lawmakers: Mary Taylor, R-Green, and John Widowfield, R-Cuyahoga Falls.
Taylor and Widowfield have not responded to numerous requests for comment, but state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island -- the state Democratic chairman -- was quick to offer an explanation as to why an abortion ban is about to become a hot Ohio issue.
``They (the Ohio House Republicans) are doing it for the exact same reason as President Bush... using hot button issues to motivate the Republican right,'' Redfern said.
With Bush's poll approval ratings at an all-time low, the president weighed in on the immigration issue and began urging the U.S. Senate to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- moves that prompted critics to claim the president is creating domestic issues to divert public attention from the war in Iraq.
And according to Redfern, the GOP on both the national and state level is seeking to rouse its conservative base for what is shaping up to be an extremely competitive election season.
``Think about it,'' Redfern said. ``(Gov. Bob) Taft considers himself to be a supporterof right to life. For 16 years the Republicans have controlled the statehouse and have controlled the legislature for 12 years. If they had wanted to pass an abortion ban they would have... Every two years they roll out these old ideas to motivate the Republican right.''
Nonsense, says Brinkman, who authored the bill and dismisses Redfern's analysis.
``I introduced this bill more than a year ago,'' Brinkman said. ``I'm 100 percent Pro Life.''
And he says the fact that Ohio lawmakers are conducting hearings on his bill now has to do with timing, but different timing than Redfern suggests.
``A year ago we didn't have the vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court,'' Brinkman said. Since then two Bush nominees were named to the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. And with those appointments, conservatives believe they now have a court that is positioned to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision.
While Redfern dismisses Brinkman's effort as political posturing and gives the bill little chance of making it out of committee, Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, isn't taking any chances.
``The purpose of H.B. 228 is to overturn Roe v. Wade,'' she said. Copeland said supporters of H.B. 228 are intentionally trying to enact legislation that is ``clearly unconstitutional'' as a way to push an extremist agenda all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1973 the Court with its Roe ruling recognized a right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy.
What worries abortion rights supporters most about the bill is that a similar bill was enacted earlier this year in South Dakota. The measure makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. The only exception to the South Dakota law is when an abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
``South Dakota was a wake-up call for a lot of people,'' Copeland said.
``South Dakota legislators launched an attack on a woman's right to choose,'' Copeland said. ``Will Ohio lawmakers now follow them down this path with an even more extreme ban?''
Both sides rallying
Copeland said members of her 20,000-person group along with dozens of abortion rights advocates from across the state will show up in Columbus for Tuesday's hearing to fight the bill.
``We're gearing up, loaded for bear... We won't let this politically inspired attack on women's health go unanswered... We are ready to give them the fight of their lives,'' Copeland said.
Likewise the anti-abortion camp will be well-represented.
``I will be there giving testimony,'' said Denise Mackura, executive director of Ohio Right to Life.
Ironically, though, Mackura's group, which has more than 70 chapters and some 50,000 members across Ohio, is not taking an official position on the bill.
``Because it is prohibiting abortion we are certainly supportive of the underlying principle,'' Mackura said. But the bill as it is currently written, she said, fails to safeguard some measures that anti-abortion advocates have fought to get into law -- such as informed consent that requires a minimum 24-hour waiting period for any woman seeking an abortion and parental consent for minors.
As written, the bill would not only ban abortion, but would also require the repeal of all laws that regulate or restrict abortion. The fear among anti-abortion activists is that if the bill became law and was challenged and reversed by the courts, the statutes eliminated by the legislation would not automatically be reinstated.
Mackura said she doesn't believe a law needs to directly challenge Roe to overturn it.
``The problem with this kind of law (H.B. 228) is that the lower courts will immediately strike it down,'' said Mackura. She said the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court coming behind a lower court to take up the case would be highly improbable.
People unaware of bill
Copeland said what is ``really dangerous'' about H.B. 228 is that it has flown under the radar of most Ohioans.
``Most people don't know anything about it. The ban hasn't gotten a lot of press,'' Copeland said, adding that the best way to end ``this political interference'' with individual, private medical decisions is through elections.
``We not only have to show up at this hearing on June 13 to fight against this ban, but Ohio's pro-choice majority must show up at the ballot box on Nov. 7th to elect leaders who share our values.''
The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in House hearing room 313.
Carl Chancellor can be reached at 330-996-3725 or email@example.com.