Ohio anti-abortion group lays out legislative agenda

First Posted: 2/10/2015

COLUMBUS (AP) — Amid strong Republican legislative majorities, abortion foes in Ohio set their sights Tuesday on an aggressive agenda for the new session.

Ohio Right to Life said it will pursue six key bills, including legislation to ban all abortions of “pain-capable” fetuses or on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis, and to prevent women’s health care and abortion provider Planned Parenthood from receiving one of its last public funding streams, for infant mortality prevention grants.

“It’s not just ironic that America’s largest abortion provider is receiving funding to prevent infant mortality, it’s actually very disturbing,” Right to Life executive director Stephanie Ranade Krider said.

With help of key lawmakers, the group also plans to introduce so-called trigger legislation by early March that would prohibit abortions in Ohio, except those necessary to save the mother’s life, in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Other bills would require use of federal protocols for use of abortion-inducing drugs and funnel money to crisis pregnancy centers that counsel pregnant women on alternatives to abortion.

A spokesman for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said some of the proposals are unconstitutional, while fully defunding Planned Parenthood programs would mean jeopardizing women’s access to care.

“Ohio Right to Life has unveiled a plan to attack the funding for Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies while at the same time asking that additional funding be handed over to crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide women with a full range of contraceptive options,” spokesman Gabriel Mann said. “Contraception is critical to helping women plan their pregnancies and reducing the infant mortality rate in the state of Ohio.”

Krider said research has shown that more than 60 percent of pregnancies involving a Down syndrome diagnosis — even only a preliminary one — are aborted. She said she hopes the bill prohibiting such abortions will help educate the public on the weaknesses of diagnostic tests for genetic defects.

The pain-capable legislation would ban abortions from about 20 weeks’ gestation forward, which is when Right to Life says experts begin to agree the fetus can feel pain. The U.S. House and 13 states have enacted some form of the legislation since 2010.

“I find it very interesting that we spent a considerable amount of time in the last legislative session dealing with finding just the right combination of drugs to kill a convicted criminal, and yet we allow unborn children — perfectly innocent unborn children — to be killed every day and undergo excruciating pain,” said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Kettering Republican who will sponsor the bill.

Execution drug protocols are subject to a constitutional provision that forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Krider said 85 percent of Right to Life’s endorsed candidates were elected last fall, so she feels optimistic about the bills passing during the two-year session that began last month. She said some but not all of the measures have come from her group’s national counterpart or other national groups.

She cited a Quinnipiac University poll in November that found 60 percent of registered voters supported a congressional proposal to ban all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks, except in cases of reported rape and incest.

Mann noted that U.S. House Republicans pulled that bill, which risked constitutional challenges by banning abortions before the point a fetus is viable outside the womb, and a similar proposal failed to gain traction in Virginia.

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