House Democrats today voted against Senate Bill (SB) 23, a GOP-backed near-total abortion ban that would prohibit abortions in Ohio long before most women know they are pregnant. SB 23 would become the most extreme abortion ban in the country if signed into law.
“This extreme abortion ban threatens the health and economic security of women and families, and further damages Ohio’s promise of opportunity for all. The legislature has made it perfectly clear that women like me are second class citizens,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “We are focused on all the wrong things. As lawmakers, we should be focused on letting Ohio lead in areas like education and job creation—not in restricting the fundamental rights and liberties of taxpayers.”
SB 23 makes no exceptions for rape or incest, and provides limited exceptions for the life and health of the mother. A last-minute markup eliminated protections for women from forced vaginal ultrasounds and removed language that held the health of women as a legitimate interest of the state.
“This is the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, and a prime example of extreme, partisan lawmaking at its worst,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), the lead Democrat on the House Health panel that heard debate on the bill. “This unvetted, rushed legislation will have serious unintended consequences down the road for Ohio women, children and families.”
Democrats offered a number of amendments on the House floor, including:
- Exception for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest
- Exemption for African-American women, whose history includes rape and forced birth imposed on enslaved women and black women after slavery.
- Establish 12-week paid parental leave and require reasonable pregnancy accommodations in the workplace
- Require men, as women are required under SB 23, to use their bodies at the direction of the state for medical purposes, including blood, bone marrow, tissue and organ donation.
- Exception for women whose constitutional right to liberty found in the 5th and 14th Amendments is infringed by restrictions in the bill, and prohibit public money from defending the bill from legal challenges.
- Eliminate Rape Statute of Limitations and eliminate spousal rape exception from Ohio law.
- Require coverage for mothers for five years and for children through age 18, and to appropriate funds for Medicaid coverage of additional forced births.
Republicans rejected the amendments along party lines without debate.
After passing the House, the bill moves to the Senate for concurrence on House changes before heading to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Here is what other Democratic lawmakers are saying:
“Instead of investing in better jobs and brighter futures, we are debating extreme healthcare restrictions that move our state in the wrong direction. The decision about when to start or grow a family is both a health and economic decision, and government should not infringe on the ability of Ohioans to make that choice.” –Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati)
“Across our great state, women of color are continually trusted to make important decisions about when, where and how to have families. We should not be limiting their ability to make these healthcare decisions. Disparities in health, employment, education and within the criminal justice system have stacked the deck against black and brown Ohioans. We won’t create more opportunity if a significant population of Ohioans are left to fend for themselves. Ohio succeeds when African American women’s rights are protected.” –Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland)
“If this bill becomes law, women will die. The state is making a one-size-fits-all approach to women’s healthcare that will surely hurt families throughout Ohio.” –Rep. Beth Liston (D-Columbus)
“Sadder than the fact that this legislation continues to undermine the rights of women, is the fact that this legislation continues to paint Ohio as a state that is not where great progressive talent wants to relocate to.” –Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati)
“This extreme total abortion ban has been found unconstitutional over and over. The money that will be spent defending this bill in court would be better spent supporting women’s healthcare needs. When a woman makes the decision to have an abortion, she should be able to do so safely, affordably and in her community with the support and respect she deserves. In addition, doctors should be able to provide the medical care that is best for each patient’s circumstance, determined by research and medical practice.” –Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus)
“The Roe v Wade decision was made while I was in college. At the time, birth control and reproductive health services were available from healthcare providers, but the physicians were all male and very judgmental. Appointments were hard to get and our choices were limited. I knew a few women who became pregnant and made the difficult and life threatening choice to seek an abortion from doctors in dark alleys and back rooms. We learned of women who sought to self-treat and later died. This bill will deny women dominion over their own bodies and will deny them access to quality healthcare.” –Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville)
“I'm concerned that we will have companies that will choose not to locate here due to our oppressive laws. I'm concerned that doctors will leave the state of Ohio. I'm concerned that our kids are going to leave, and that we're going to lose a large amount of young people who don't want to live in an oppressive atmosphere.” –Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown)
“This bill not only hurts Ohio women, but it hurts their families and our entire economy. These bans are not about increasing our state’s health and well-being, they are about advancing a political and ideological agenda by inserting government between women and their doctors.” –Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton)
“This unconstitutional healthcare restriction will stick taxpayers with a four to five million dollar bill, when we should be focused on strengthening Ohio’s promise as an opportunity state where people can come to live a better life. Instead, this fiscally irresponsible bill will limit comprehensive healthcare access and drive even more talent out of our state.” –Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo)
“This bill is unquestionably, unequivocally, and unimpeachably is unconstitutional. Ohio taxpayers should not be on the hook for its legal defense.” –Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester)
“How can we possibly fulfill the Ohio promise of a better life and attract more people and employers to our state if we pass the most extreme, near-complete abortion ban in the entire country? People will not want to start families and businesses in Ohio with this type of attack on women’s rights. We need to defend a woman’s right to make her own choices about her health and her reproductive decisions. Government control of a women’s reproductive decisions is a violation of her right to privacy between herself and her doctor, and her personal freedoms. The General Assembly should focus on improving our education system for our children, not restricting essential healthcare access.” –Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon)
“A woman’s medical decisions are between her and her physician. The legislature, instead of focusing on real issues that affect our children, Ohio lawmakers choose to pass restrictive bills. The decisions I made in my life were, in fact, my own. The decision to continue my high risk pregnancy with my twins took a toll on my health and my babies’. I thank advocates like Planned Parenthood who are fighting for me and other women in Ohio to keep our right to choose.” —Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus)
“Women should have the freedom to make the best healthcare decisions for themselves and their families – and this bill is the antithesis of freedom. I am disappointed that we haven’t been able to focus on pressing issues facing Ohioans like lowering the costs of prescription drugs or addressing our dismal infant mortality rates, and instead have been spending time focusing on legislation to restrict a woman’s choice.” —Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton)
“We are be taking a massive step back in history by diminishing women’s freedoms, while every single freedom given to men goes unaltered.” —Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron)
“Research indicates that one in five women have been a victim of sexual assault while pursuing a post-secondary education. This total abortion ban makes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest. Unfortunately, we know that women on Ohio campuses will be victims of sexual violence, and this legislation will force them to carry their rapists’ child to term. Knowing this, I fear that Ohio women will not want to live in a state that doesn’t protect their health, safety and rights. Ohio’s future economy will be hurt if half of our population takes their talents elsewhere.” —Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid)