November 29, 2014

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Ohio rally pushes abortion rights, women’s health

Ruth Clevenger of Chagrin Falls, Ohio waves an American flag during the "We Won't Go Back" Statehouse Rally organized by more than 55 Ohio groups at the Ohio Statehouse, Wednesday Columbus, Ohio. The rally was organized to draw attention to legislation that will effect Ohio laws that influence different aspects of women's health care. (AP Photo/Columbus Dispatch, Brooke LaValley)

The “We Won’t Go Back” Statehouse Rally, organized by more than 55 Ohio groups, was held at the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday in Columbus. (AP Photo/Columbus Dispatch, Brooke LaValley)

COLUMBUS — With her 2-week-old son in hand, Cleveland gynecologist Lisa Perriera told demonstrators at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday that new laws limiting access to abortions and other women’s health care are creating unnecessary hurdles for her patients.

Perriera said that because of the laws she recently had to require a couple forced to end a pregnancy for medical reasons to listen to the fetal heartbeat and undergo an ultrasound to determine the pregnancy’s viability before sending them out of state for a legal late-term abortion.

“I’m here today to speak in opposition to the continuous assault on comprehensive reproductive health care by our state elected officials and to demand that Ohio politicians get out of my exam room,” Perriera told the crowd of several hundred at the “We Won’t Go Back” rally.

Participants from more than 50 women’s groups, labor unions and elsewhere hoped the rally would draw the attention of Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP lawmakers who control both chambers of the Legislature and favor restrictions on abortion.

Demonstrators waved signs attacking Kasich and other male leaders for effectively de-funding Planned Parenthood and passing abortion-related restrictions on Ohio’s publicly funded hospitals and on counselors at taxpayer-funded rape crisis centers.

The president of Ohio Right to Life predicted the event would do little to sway opinions on abortion.

“It’s a political stunt. It’s nothing more than a charade,” Mike Gonidakis said. “It won’t move the needle at all in the state.”

Gonidakis said Ohio has a history of preventing public money from being spent on abortions and of enacting tough laws against the procedure, including a late-term abortion ban.

Two Ohio clinics offering abortions have recently closed and a third, in Toledo, is expected to close in the next six months as a result of the changes.

“This was done in a trick maneuver and it’s very important that women rally and fix it,” Feminist Majority Foundation President Ellie Smeal, one of the event speakers, said in a telephone interview. “This has to be changed. Women’s lives and their health care can’t be made a political football like this.”

What Smeal calls a “trick maneuver” was the last-minute addition of several abortion-related provisions to the state budget, not leaving time for debate.