COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Tuesday, as pro-choice advocates rallied first across the street in front of the Vern Riffe Center and later on Statehouse grounds, lawmakers attended hearings on a host of bills that did not deal with abortion.
Some lawmakers spent some of their free time rallying with advocates; State Representatives Tavia Galonski, Stephanie Howse, and Lisa Sobecki were front and center chanting with the crowd.
Galonski addressed those in attendance telling them some lawmakers stood with them and urged more women to run for and win election to the legislature.
Only about a quarter of the members of the Ohio House of Representatives are women, which is part of the reason why she grows so upset when bills that restrict abortion are put forward.
“You really have a bunch of men, who don’t actually know how a woman’s body works, making legislation about our bodies and it’s just so offensive on so many levels,” said Galonski.
While other lawmakers have been here for a decade or more, she has been here long enough to have developed an opinion on what she sees happening.
“All of these bills have an invasive nature,” said Galonski. “What ever happened to smaller government? That’s what I want, you know, let people make their own decisions, their own choices, with their God and with their doctor.”
And when it comes down to who is putting these bills forward, Galonski pulls no punches.
“You’re hearing like a small, strange, crazy, minority of people who keep pushing these really, really radical agendas; and finally, as a lawyer, they’re unconstitutional,” said Galonski.
The President of the Senate Larry Obhof disagrees with Galonski’s assessment that those pushing the bills are in anyway a small minority.
“We have a significant number, a super majority in both chambers who are Pro-Life, and most of the people who voted for them are Pro-Life and we think that we are accurately representing the values of the people who sent us here,” said Obhof.
He also points out that of the 10 bills the Senate set as a priority at the beginning of this General Assembly, 8 of them have already passed out of the Senate and have been sent to the House; and none of them deal with abortion.
“They really run the gamut on issues that matter to people whether it’s regulatory reform and efforts to improve the economy; or sentencing reform and trying to make sure that our criminal justice system is giving people who need a second chance the opportunity for that while taking people who are preying on our communities and putting them in prison; or protecting the environment and particularly Lake Erie and our other waterways; or investing in new schools and new school construction; or protecting victims of human trafficking; we’ve really run the gamut I think on a broad base of issues that are important to the people that we represent,” said Obhof.
Still, State Senator Nickie Antonio says the number of bills that deal in some way with abortions or access to them have been increasing in the past few years.
Since 2011, 21 bills have been signed into law by an Ohio Governor; John Kasich signed 20 of them, Mike DeWine signed his first earlier this year.
“I don’t believe it’s going to stop,” said Antonio. “First and foremost, good for fundraising; good for rallying a base of people.”
She says it’s also good for messaging.
“The general message of saving lives crowds out the common sense medical issues that come as a result and a consequence of all of these bills; the consequence for women’s lives and for their health and, frankly, for their right to be a complete citizen and have the complete decision making power that our brothers have, right now,” said Antonio.
When it comes to abortions, both sides disagree on a number of issues, including if all of these bills will eventually lead to a problem for the party in power.
“I do think there’s going to be more voices heard at the ballot box with this issue,” said Antonio.
Obhof was nonplussed over the potential that Pro-Choice voters would be able to overcome what he views as the will of the majority of Ohioans.
“I believe that the Ohio Legislature is accurately representing the values of people who have elected us and doing the things that our constituents want us to do,” said Obhof. “I think that the voters, by and large, who supported members of our caucus have done so because they share these values.”
As for if there will ever come a time when Pro-Life bills no longer need to be introduced at the Statehouse, Obhof says that would be up to each individual lawmaker.
It should also be pointed out that there have been bills introduced by lawmakers that have gone absolutely nowhere due to their extreme nature.
Last General Assembly, State Representatives Nino Vitale and Ron Hood introduced a bill that would ban all abortions with no exceptions and that bill didn’t even make it out of its House Committee.