Friday, October 18, 2013

Ohio Abortion Clinics Close

The Columbus Dispatch reports that one more abortion clinic has closed this month, while two others are appealing their closure. These three clinics add to the two others that were closed earlier this year, leaving only nine abortion clinics in the entire state of Ohio.

These abortion clinics were closed for either health violations or the absence of a valid transfer agreement with an area hospital. However, the state budget, signed by the Ohio State Legislature and the governor, banned public hospitals from entering into transfer agreements with abortion clinics, making it significantly harder for clinics to continue operation by law. In addition, the budget prohibits doctors who have rights to practice at a public hospital from also working at an abortion clinic, and it includes amendments that limit federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, agrees: “It seems the problem isn’t clinics providing excellent care but rather all the restrictions of abortion care making it more difficult for physicians to operate clinics in Ohio.”

She continues, “This move is an abuse of power motivated by pressure from Ohio Right to Life, an anti-choice organization led by Gov. Kasich’s appointee to the State Medical Board, Mike Gonikadis. Kasich’s agenda is clear- to put politicians in charge of women’s personal, private medical decisions by closing every abortion clinic in this state, despite their incredible safety record.”

Ohio is able to pass conservative pro-life policies because it has a very Republican-leaning state legislature. Of the 99 representatives in the House, 59 are Republican and 40 are Democrat. In both caucuses, there are 11 women, so 18% of the Republicans in the House are women, and 27% of the Democrats in the House are women. We see an even larger discrepancy in the Senate, with 23 of the 33 Senators identifying with the Republican party, and 10 of the 33 Senators identifying with the Democratic party. Of the 23 Republicans, only 3 are women, making up 13%, and of the 10 Democrats, 5 are women, making up 50%.

The budget bill passed through the Senate with a 23-10 party-line vote, but after disagreements between the chambers, mostly concerning the rules for charter schools and teacher pay, the state legislature formed an all-male conference committee made up of 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Again, the budget passed with a party-line vote, 4-2.

These results clearly demonstrate the polarization in the state legislature and the power of the majority party to pass items on its own agenda without needing to appeal to any members of the minority party. As many Republicans have expressed pro-life political beliefs, a unified Republican majority party in both the House and the Senate has ultimately led to drastic changes to the availability of abortion clinics in the state.

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  1. Have the members of the Ohio Democratic Caucus tried to attach amendments that would be opposed by the majority party? Or have they introduced alternative legislation that is less conservative, but might be able to gain the support of moderate Ohio Republicans?

    -Sophie S.

  2. Is there any evidence that a majority of Ohioans are pro-life? Because if so then you could say that the state legislature is fulfilling its duty of responding to its constituents. If not, I suppose it would depend on how high of a priority abortion is to Ohioans - is it something over which they are willing to vote the Republicans out of office?

  3. In response to Sophie's comment, I'd also like to bring up what we discussed in class on 10/22. Another option could be proposing an amendment that could kill the bill, instead of introducing a compromise. Chris brought up the question about whether or not Ohioans are pro-life or pro-choice. If this piece of legislation is not for the betterment of the constituents, then killing the bill could make more time to start from square one on a more moderate compromise.

    -- Maddie J

  4. Ohio is interesting because a majority of the people in 2012 in Ohio voted for Obama while a majority of the counties in Ohio voted for Romney. This could cause a conservative shift in the state legislature that is not representative of the state as a whole. We could be seeing these pro life policies coming out of the legislature even though a majority of the people don't support it

  5. In response to the blogroll question posed: Since it passed the Senate along party lines, it seems that the female senators are voting pro-life with their party. This may suggest that abortion is more of a party issue than a gender issue in this Congress, and there would not have been much of a difference if there were more women representatives.