Statehouse Democrats say they're pushing new legislation on abortion-related measures that were included in the state budget.
The move comes after an event Democrats say gave women a voice, but some conservative activists say denied them a chance to speak. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.
The event last week was billed as both a press conference and a hearing on the abortion-related items that were included in the budget but never had full hearings. And it played like a little of both. It was an organized gathering with a press advisory and a list of speakers, but it was held in a hearing room. Republican lawmakers had pulled the cameras that cover official proceedings of the legislature because legislative rules say that press conferences can be covered by the Ohio Channel, but committee hearings cannot be. Rep. Kathleen Clyde from Kent helped organize that event, and says because of what Democrats heard then, they’re proposing measures to repeal those abortion-related items in the budget.
“The measure that would defund Planned Parenthood in the state of Ohio, the measure that would force women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds, the provisions requiring clinics to have transfer agreements and then requiring that those transfer agreements cannot be with public hospitals, the gag order that was placed on rape crisis counselors in their consultation with rape victims and other survivors of sexual assaults. We will not be silenced.”
But standing amid the group of pro-choice supporters at the press conference were some women who claimed they had been silenced – by the Democrats. Activists from Ohio Right to Life stood with red duct tape across their mouths, carrying a sign that said the Democrats had banned their testimony at the hearing last week. Legislative director Kayla Smith admits the budget did go her group’s way, but if the Democrats had been holding a true hearing, she should have been allowed to testify as a proponent of the budget.
“We are still in support of it, so we’re going to defend it, regardless of if it’s five years later, three months later. We always want to be there supporting our legislative initiatives and what the men and women of Ohio stand up for.”
Smith says while last week’s event had been called a hearing by Clyde, she and other activists were told then it was a press conference and that they wouldn’t be permitted to offer their comments. Clyde says last week’s event was what she called an “informal hearing” with a prearranged lineup of speakers – and Right to Life’s representatives were not among them.
“Believe you me, the Republicans chair many committee hearings where the testimony is proponent testimony only, or you don’t, you at some point have to cut off the amount of speech that’s going on. It doesn’t mean that those people are silenced or don’t have an opportunity in some other venue. And Right to Life has had plenty of opportunities in this legislature to get their message across.”
The abortion related measures in the budget take effect next week. It’s very unlikely the attempts to repeal the abortion-related items in the budget will find any traction, though Clyde says Democrats will try to find co-sponsors among Republicans who she says were outspoken in their opposition to those items in the budget.