Newly elected State Rep. Stephanie Howse was elated to learn she’d be the top-ranking Democrat on the House Community and Family Advancement Committee.
Finally, she thought, a legislative panel dedicated to helping families by working to reduce Ohio’s shamefully high rates of hunger, child poverty and infant mortality.
“But it became anything but a committee that addressed the need of families,’’ she told about 100 people who met in the Columbus Trinity Episcopal Church for Freedom of Choice Ohio Advocacy Day. “It’s started to limit help for people in poverty and for people who are hungry.’’
Among abortion rights supporters, the Family Advancement Committee is quietly known as the Abortion Tribunal because it’s the panel controlled by members fixated on adding new abortion restrictions, while doing little – if anything – to tackle Ohio’s stubbornly high poverty rate and rising infant mortality rate for black babies.
Howse was among a passionate group of leaders who decried the Legislature’s constant attacks on reproductive rights and called for passage of paid family leave and other laws experts say will help improve people’s lives.
“When it’s darkest you can see the stars,’’ said Kellie Copeland, who heads NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “Rep. Howse is one of the stars.’’
Choice advocates’ list as a top priority defeat of House Bill 117 and Senate Bill 127 – nearly identical measures that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.
Less than 2 percent of abortions are done after 20 weeks and most of them involve gut-wrenching stories of fatal fetal anomaly or a serious risk to the woman’s healthy. Last year, Cincinnati resident Sheva Guy told a news conference that she was forced to travel 300 miles to Chicgao to terminate her 22-week pregnancy, rather than have a still born.
She was happily married and happily pregnant, and devastated to learn her baby would never live.
“I just completely broke down when I got the news, ‘’ she said. “I mean I was so vulnerable. Pantsless on table … finding out I had two options: deliver a stillborn daughter or have an abortion out of state.’’
The first option was more than she could bear.
Sheva shared her story to help other women and said she is part of a private Facebook group for women with similar experiences.
Today on Reddit, an unidentified woman told why she terminated a wanted pregnancy at 23 weeks:
“I’m putting this out there in case there is anyone in a similar situation. My baby had multiple, devastating defects and would have had a life of pain and suffering. I did what was right for my family and my unborn baby. Due to laws in my state, I had to travel to another state to have the procedure done. If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation, please feel free to reach out and ask me anything at all. Any negative comments/messages will be ignored. Too many people think of abortion as a black and white issue, failing to see all the gray areas. I wish I had had someone to talk to who has been through it so that is why I am putting this out there…’’
Supporters of reproductive rights came from all corners of Ohio to meet with local legislators, rally outside the Ohio Statehouse and get updates from coalition partners.
Iris Harvey, the new president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said she is particularly troubled by the growing trend of abortion opponents “who make their case by peddling medically inaccurate information.‘’ And she vowed that Planned Parenthood is “going to explore every means possible to fight’’ a newly passed law that defunded Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has been running successful infant mortality rate reduction programs, she said, and they are being cut at a time “when the infant mortality rate in some parts of Ohio is equal to that in some developing countries.’’
When Gov. John Kasich was asked about Ohio’s rising rate for black babies, he took none of the blame and pointed the finger a “the minority community.’’
“The issue of infant mortality is a tough one,’’ Kasich said. “We have taken that on and one of the toughest areas to take on is in the minority community. And the community itself is going to have to have a better partnership with all of us to begin to solve that problem with infant mortality in the minority community, because we’re making gains in the majority community.”