National Partnership for Women & Families

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Op-ed discusses implications of reproductive-rights restrictions, highlights 20-week abortion ban in Ohio

"Despite widespread public outrage and requests to veto from medical experts," Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) last week signed a bill (S 127) that will ban abortion care at 20 weeks of pregnancy, marking "the 18th measure he's signed to restrict women's health care in Ohio," Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, writes in an opinion piece for The Hill.

Noting that "[i]ndividual rights and freedom are at the heart of who we are as a state and as a country, including the right to decide to end a pregnancy," Harvey writes, "[W]e're not going to stand for this ban."

Harvey explains that bans on abortion care "block women from accessing the care they need." According to Harvey, "Restrictive laws have shut down nearly half of the abortion providers in the state, forcing women in Ohio to travel long distances and cross state lines to get an abortion, if they can at all." She adds that such restrictions "have a disproportionate impact on those who already face far too many barriers to health care as people of color, people who live in rural areas, or people with low incomes."

Harvey writes that the 20-week ban, as well as a vetoed measure that would have prohibited abortion care as early as six weeks, is "part of an alarming trend of statehouses getting between women and their doctors." According to Harvey, over the last five years, state legislatures "have enacted more than 330 provisions to restrict access to safe, legal abortion."

Harvey writes, "In pursuit of this ideological agenda, extreme politicians across the country are also targeting people's access to birth control, cancer screenings, [sexually transmitted infection] testing and treatment, and other care at Planned Parenthood, with devastating consequences for our patients."

For instance, Harvey explains that "[a]fter Texas slashed funding for women's health care and 'defunded Planned Parenthood' ... many women in Texas who did not want to be pregnant were no longer able to get the health care they needed to prevent pregnancy." Moreover, "[a]t the same time, between 2010 and 2012, maternal mortality rates in Texas nearly doubled," she writes, noting that the increase "was disproportionately driven by the death of Black women." Harvey writes, "The political attacks on access to reproductive health in Texas, Ohio and across the country are undoing decades of work by public health advocates to address longstanding health-care inequity for people of color in this country."

Meanwhile, "these bans in Ohio are rejected by Ohioans," Harvey continues. She writes that recent antiabortion-rights proposals, such as the 20-week ban, were "immediately met with widespread protests ... at the Statehouse, sit-ins at the Governor's office, and with women all over Ohio sending letters, making tens of thousands of phone calls to Kasich's office."

These "protests will continue," Harvey adds, writing, "People will not stand by silently while politicians attack their autonomy and their ability to live healthy lives." Noting that "[n]early one in three women in this country ... have an abortion," Harvey continues, "These attacks on access to safe and legal abortion are dangerous to women’s health – and they’re unpopular with the American people." She points to research showing that the "vast majority of Americans want abortion to remain safe and legal, and they certainly want women to have access to high-quality, compassionate reproductive health care."

Citing another poll showing that nearly half of those who voted for President-elect Donald Trump "support federal funding for Planned Parenthood," as well as the election of two liberal U.S. senators who ran against abortion-rights opponents, Harvey concludes, "Politicians in Ohio -- and in Congress -- should keep that in mind come January" (Harvey, The Hill, 12/18).