Ohioans divided on decision to overturn Roe v. Wade

Protesters rally at the Ohio Statehouse in support of abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio.   The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans' lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade.  (Barbara J. Perenic /The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

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Protesters rally at the Ohio Statehouse in support of abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. The Supreme Court on Friday stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, a fundamental and deeply personal change for Americans' lives after nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. (Barbara J. Perenic /The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

People gathered in several cities throughout Ohio this weekend in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, returning abortion policy to the state level.

A crowd of around 200 people decried the decision Friday night in downtown Dayton. People of every age, from grandparents to toddlers, attended the rally in the heat to support abortion rights. The organizer, Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance, announced the protest earlier on Friday.

Chris Stanfield brought his daughter to the abortion rights rally Friday evening on the lawn of the Walter H. Rice Federal Building on Second Street. He said he felt helpless earlier and wanted to do something and fight for his daughter.

“If you don’t fight for things, if you just don’t push back onto the storm, the system will run you over,” Stanfield said.

Organizers registered people to vote and called on protestors to vote in the upcoming elections. At the end, protestors led a short march around downtown, with signs displaying slogans like, “My uterus has more restrictions than your guns!”

Julie Beall attended the rally with her sister, Dona Noune, who said she’d heard the news first from her children who are traveling in Europe before she heard the news locally.

Beall said she was angry at the state of the world and encouraged people to be politically active.

“I’m tired of people who say, ‘oh, I don’t vote because it doesn’t make a difference.’ This is the reason you vote and put people in that will fight for what you know is right,” she said.

Joy Schwab, founder of the Dayton Women’s Rights Alliance and a longtime women’s rights advocate, called on protestors to change leaders at the state level and vote in more Democrats, because the Supreme Court decision on Friday returned the decision to the state.

Ohio already filed to put in place a six-week abortion restriction and is eventually expected to place more restrictions on abortion.

“A fertilized egg is not a person,” Schwab said. “I am not an incubator and neither are any of you.”

In Cincinnati, a crowd gathered in the downtown area and marched on Main Street in protest of the decision made by the Supreme Court on Friday.

“This is unacceptable,” Jenny Ustick said. “This is inhuman,” she said.

Ustick is one of many who wanted to make sure their voices were heard, marching to both the Hamilton County and federal courthouses while chanting phrases like, “My body, my choice” and “Stand up, fight back.”

“There are people who don’t care for conditions like mine, that had when I was 19,” Ustick said. “They would’ve gladly seen me die before giving abortion care.”

“If I didn’t take chemo, I would’ve died in a month,” Ustick said. “If I had taken chemo and not aborted the fetus, I could’ve miscarried in a way that would’ve killed me. There was no viability for that pregnancy.”

On the other side of the debate, abortion rights opponents are praising the high court’s conservative majority on its decision.

“We know that we still have a lot of work to do,” said Laura Strietmann with Cincinnati Right to Life. “I think the thing that we all agree on is that we want to help women, but people in the pro-life movement know for a fact that killing an unborn child never helps anyone.”

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said his desire is to see life more valued by the nation.

“Being an adoptee who started life in a foster home, my own experience helped shape my views on this issue. I’m here today because my birth mother chose life and put me up for adoption, which I know could not have been an easy decision for her. My prayer for all of us is this collective experience will build a more compassionate nation that values life.”

Springfield NAACP President Denise Williams said Friday’s decision will create an added burden on many people during a time of economic strain.

“This is like putting something else in our cart and the cart is tipping over,” Williams said. “We have so much on us right now. Gas prices rising, grocery store costs, tenants having rent raised. It’s too much.”

Pending the state’s decision on abortion, Ohioans seeking abortion services may have to travel across state lines, “an added expense and burden,” Williams said.

Williams said she feels a woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body.

“To have that choice taken away from women… it’s ridiculous,” she said. “It’s our decision.”

Politicians react

Ohio Attorney General David Yost said the abortion policy always belonged to the elected policy branches of government.

“Roe was poorly reasoned, a doctrine of shifting sands that invited perpetual litigation,” he said. “We will continue to debate this issue. But passion is not a license to violence. I call again on my federal colleague, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and my fellow states’ attorneys general to publicly commit to holding violent protesters accountable under the law, no matter which side they are on.”

Ohio Sen. Steve Huffman said religion is behind his support of the decision.

“My strong Catholic faith, combined with 30 years as a practicing physician, drives my belief that every life should be valued, he said. “Today, we celebrate the court’s decision to rule in favor of the sanctity of human life, and our work continues. As Chairman of the Senate Health Committee I will work with my colleagues and our legal counsel to ensure we uphold the Constitution and protect the unborn,” Huffman said.

“Of all of my legislative accomplishments, I am most proud of the work we have done in Ohio to protect life and I remain committed to doing so.”

U.S. Rep Tim Ryan disagrees, calling the decision an overreach.

“Today’s disastrous decision is the largest case of government overreach in my lifetime. By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court is gutting a long-established right in order to put politicians between women and their doctors,” Ryan said. “Even worse, this ruling gives the green light to those here in Ohio who have introduced legislation that would deny women access to potentially lifesaving care, and threaten to put women and doctors in jail.”

Ohio Sen. Steve Wilson said the Supreme Court’s ruling means justice was done.

“This historic ruling restores the right to life as a bedrock principle of our legal system. It reaffirms our belief that every life has value and is deserving of dignity and respect. Our country was founded upon a declaration that every individual should enjoy the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Today, justice was done,” Wilson aid.

Heartbeat bill becomes law

Ohio’s heartbeat bill became law immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is a 6-week ban on abortions after the first heartbeat is detected, Yost announced Friday.

“The Heartbeat Law hopefully and prayerfully will go into effect in the state of Ohio. We are acting to pass the Human Life Protection Act that will end abortion from the moment of conception,” said Elizabeth Whitmarsh, director of communications for Ohio Right To Life. “By the end of the year it is very likely that Ohio will not have legal abortion.”

She said the group does not support prohibiting Ohio women from traveling across state lines. But Whitmarsh said the group wants to stop mail delivery of mifepristone and misoprostol, the two legal medications used to induce abortions in the early part of a pregnancy.

The court ruling allows a minority to take away personal freedoms, said Desiree Tims, a Dayton native and former congressional candidate who is president and CEO of Innovation Ohio.

“Most Americans and Ohioans support the basic human right to decide what happens to our own bodies. It’s time for the majority to speak with one voice that cannot be ignored,” Tims said.

She said the court decision highlights the power local and state elected officials have to make decisions about women’s bodies.

“We must vote in every single election, especially for state Supreme Court candidates,” Tims said. “Ohio’s Supreme Court will likely now decide the future of abortion rights in our communities.”

Abortion in Ohio

There were 20,605 induced abortions in Ohio in 2020, according to the latest annual report by Ohio Department of Health.

This includes 19,438 abortions obtained by Ohio residents (94.3%). While there was an increase in 2020, there has been a steady decline in terminations over the last two decades.

The majority of patients — about 59% — who received abortions were in their 20s.

Residents who received an abortion in Ohio were most likely to be Black (48.1%), with white residents not far behind (43.8%).

About 77.4% of patients reported they were not Hispanic while 4.6% reported they were Hispanic, though a significant portion (17.9%) didn’t report either category.

About 86% of women with known marital status who obtained abortions were never married, divorced, or widowed.

WCPO reporter Kendria LeFleur contributed to this report. WCPO is a content partner of Cox First Media.

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