After several months of debate and proposals, the final changes to Ohio’s two-year budget were revealed Tuesday and included several abortion restrictions aimed at almost eliminating abortion in the state.
One such restriction is an abdominal ultrasound requirement that had not appeared previously on any versions of the budget. This abdominal ultrasound requirement would require doctors to determine if there is a fetal heartbeat via abdominal ultrasound before performing an abortion -failure to do so would put doctors at risk of facing criminal charges. Doctors would also be required to provide the statistical probability of the woman being able to carry the fetus to term. Much of the language mimics that off a failed attempt to outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Originally, we thought this was the worst of it, but turns out there are also new ‘informed-consent’ requirements [PDF]. This requires that pregnant women be given state-approved materials detailing fetal development and family planning information that includes adoption agencies and resources for raising a child.
The budget also determines that pregnancy can now be defined by any fertilized egg – meaning that in order to receive birth control, women would be required to undergo an ultrasound and a 24-hour wait period. This means that “the disruption of implantation of a fertilized egg” is now equated with “abortion”. This jeopardizes emergency contraception such as the morning after pill, even though the medical industry does not consider it an abortion. Birth control pills would be abortions waiting to happen.
Another provision of the Ohio budget could potentially close abortion clinics throughout the state. The provision prohibits abortion clinics from have transfer agreements with public hospitals in case a patient needs additional care. However, in order for ambulatory surgical centers to be licensed by the state, they are required to have such transfer agreements in place, essentially creating a bureaucrating clinics out of existence fi they can’t find a private hospital.
In addition, these restrictions would effectively defund Planned Parenthood and Rape Crisis Centers and redirect funding to right-wing supported crisis pregnancy centers. The budget strips $2 million in family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and redirects those family planning funds toward deceptive crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). CPCs are often owned and operated by churches or anti-abortion groups that pose as legitimate health centers. CPCs do not have the staff to provide medically accurate information and often convey religious beliefs in an attempt to convince women to carry their pregnancies to term. The budget also includes a provision that would deny federal funding to rape crisis centers who provide information on abortion to rape victims.
A committee consisting of four Republicans and two Democrats passed this version of the Ohio budget and goes before the full House and Senate on Thursday. It is expected that this bill would pass through both the House and Senate on Thursday without opportunity for amendments to it. Now Governor Kasich is the only person who can make a final change to the budget and he has chosen not to comment on abortion vetoes. The governor would have until 11:59 pm Sunday to make any vetoes so that the bill can take effect on Monday as expected. When asked about the last minute additions to the bill, Kasich explained,
“I think the legislature has a right to stick things in budgets and put policy in budgets. It happens in conference committees. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here in the way in which they’ve decided this,”
“I’ll look at the language, keeping in mind that I’m pro-life,”
Pro-choice activists in Ohio are already beginning to mobilize, inspired by the courageous activism of women in Texas, including a rally that took place earlier today on the High Street side of the Ohio Statehouse. Activists are using the hashtag #StandWithOhio on Twitter to bring attention to the issues going on in Ohio surrounding these last minute provisions that were tacked onto the state’s budget — inspired by the extreme outpour of tweets that put Wendy Davis and the filibuster she began on the map for the mainstream news with the hashtag #StandWithWendy.
If the recent events in Texas have shown us anything, it’s that, when it comes down to it, an assault on women’s reproductive rights will not be tolerated.