Last month, pro-choice Ohioans and legislators gathered outside the Statehouse as we have done time and again. But this time something was different. We weren’t there to talk about the myriad attacks on access to abortion pending in the Ohio General Assembly. Instead we were there to talk about a new proactive agenda — one that would remove barriers to abortion in our state.
The press conference was held outside on a blustery day in late September to prove a point: The narrative upon which the anti-choice legislators inside that building were acting excludes our voices, our stories and our lives. We gathered to change that narrative. We were going to introduce proactive bills that would reflect our values. We were there to demand Access Without Apology.
These proactive bills came out of conversations throughout the summer about how to fight back on the 16 different bills pending in the Ohio Legislature restricting access to abortion, birth control and other reproductive health care services. They came out of our frustration that we are always playing defense. They came out of our frustration that we are forced to sit on the sidelines as bill after bill restricting access is passed, no matter how many people speak up and no matter what the majority of Ohioans think is best.
Pro-choice legislators have introduced proactive bills in the past that addressed birth control, emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education. But we had never introduced abortion-focused proactive legislation. Now, on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse, we were finally doing just that — and not just one bill but six!
Here are the bills we introduced:
- Removing public funding prohibitions for abortion care, including Medicaid funding (House Bill 356, introduced by Representatives Greta Johnson and Nick Celebrezze);
- Lifting Ohio’s medically unnecessary 24-hour waiting period (House Bill 357, introduced by Representatives Greta Johnson and Kent Smith);
- Removing bans on insurance coverage for abortion care for government employees and in the health care exchanges (House Bill 360, introduced by Representatives Nicholas Celebrezze and Nickie Antonio);
- Removing the requirement that ambulatory surgical facilities (which is how Ohio regulates abortion providers) have medically unnecessary transfer agreements with a local hospital (House Bill 370, introduced by Representatives Kathleen Clyde and Teresa Fedor);
- Requiring crisis pregnancy centers that receive state funds to provide clients with medically accurate information (House Bill 376, introduced by Representatives Janine Boyd and Emilia Sykes); and
- Creating legal processes to protect medical professionals and employees of abortion providers from harassment outside their medical offices and their homes, and creating protections for patients entering abortion clinics (to be introduced by Representatives Stephanie Howse and Michelle Lepore-Hagan).
This proactive agenda will certainly never pass given the current makeup of the Ohio General Assembly, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have taken back the narrative. We have taken back control. We have spoken our values and we will stand by them until we do have a legislature that will do what is right for Ohioans. That September day was day one of what will be a long fight, but for once it is a fight we started, rather than a fight forced upon us by our opposition.
Representative Greta Johnson said it best that September morning: “We are not damsels in distress tied to the railroad tracks, we are the train.”
Reading those words doesn’t do that statement justice. I encourage you to watch her speech at the press conference for yourself below and then ask yourself, “What am I waiting for?” Go introduce your own “abortion without apology” agenda!
I hear the train whistle, do you?