In cities across the country thousands of people are protesting in support of access to safe and legal abortion

Dayton abortion protest follows heated state, national debate

The local event attracted a handful of anti-abortion activists. It came following recent legislative actions in Ohio and other states that restrict if or when women can get abortions.

Governors in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have recently approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen in the sixth week of pregnancy. That’s before many women know they’re pregnant, opponents of the measures say.

MORE: Federal lawsuit filed to challenge Ohio’s heartbeat abortion ban law

Alabama’s governor signed a measure making abortion a felony in nearly all cases. Missouri lawmakers passed an eight-week ban Friday, and other states, including Louisiana, are considering similar laws.

The ACLU of Ohio and Planned Parenthood have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s heartbeat abortion law which would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the measure on April 11.

RELATED: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine answers questions about ‘Heartbeat’ abortion law

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Voices United for Women, Planned Parenthood, MoveOn.org, Jobs With Justice, Service Employees International, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Sierra Club and the National Domestic Workers Alliance organized rallies in 250 cities across the country Tuesday in support of access to legal abortion.

In the local protest, Emily Parris, of Voices United for Women, said, “Dayton has a progressive, diverse population and today the people here joined thousands across the country to stand up for women’s reproductive rights. Coming out in full force in Dayton let’s our legislators know that we will not be forgotten.”

MORE: Group holds local rally today for abortion rights

New state restrictions seek to criminalize abortion – including the jailing of women and their doctors – speaker Mel Rodriguez told the crowd.

“We are out here because our bodies are getting legislated. Who is doing that? The people in the statehouse,” she said.

She told the rally audience to change the situation through the ballot box. “We need people who are going to stand up for our rights as women,” she said.

MORE: Can an abortion be reversed? Pro-life says yes, Pro-choice says it’s junk science

One of the anti-abortion protestors who also attended the rally, Debbie Nieport, said she respected the rights of the pro-choice crowd to have their opinion, but she is pro-life.

“I am here today to give the other side: women deserve better than abortion,” she said, while holding her placard bearing the same message. “I believe that women have a choice — what type of career or car they want to drive, if they want to get married — but no human being has the right to to take the life of another human being.”

Daniel Richards said abortion “should be safe, legal and rare. In cases of rape, incest or the mother’s health it should be a viable option. I believe adoption should be the preferred option whenever possible.”

MORE: Ohio Supreme Court ruling against abortion clinics could impact Kettering clinic

NARAL said the rally was held in front of Premier Health Partners as a push to get the health system to sign a transfer agreement to keep abortion accessible.

Ohio law requires any abortion provider to have a transfer agreement in place with a local hospital that guarantees the hospital will accept any patient from the clinic in the event of emergency. In the Dayton region neither of the companies that own most area hospitals, Premier and Kettering Health, have agreed to a transfer arrangement with the area’s only abortion clinic, Women’s Med Center of Kettering.

“We acknowledge that this is a difficult subject with strong emotions on both sides. Our focus will always remain on providing the best care possible for all patients in our community,” Premier Health said in a statement. “The requirement that abortion clinics have transfer agreements with hospitals is a requirement of the State of Ohio and was decided at the state level. In the case of Premier Health, and as reported previously in the media, our ownership includes a Catholic organization. Under our governing documents, we have long been – and continue to be – prohibited from entering into certain arrangements, which include transfer agreements with this type of provider. However, our hospitals accept any patient from any source who presents with an emergency medical condition.”

Opponents of the law say it is an attempt at a ban because hospitals will take an emergency patient with or without an agreement in place.

MORE: Kettering abortion provider appeals to Ohio Supreme Court to stay open

Because the Kettering facility does not have a transfer agreement, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has refused to renew the center’s ambulatory surgical facility license. The Second District Court of Appeals sided with the Ohio Department of Health. Attorneys for Women’s Med last week filed an appeal of that law with the Ohio Supreme Court in its fight to remain open.

Margie Christie, executive director of Dayton Right to Life, said protesters Tuesday were attempting to intimidate Premier Health.

MORE: Alabama abortion law: 5 things to know about the legislation

“Premier Health should not be bullied into this agenda by inaccurate or misleading information,” Christie said.

“These groups want you to believe that Roe is ‘settled law,’” Christie said. “This could not be further from the truth. The Supreme Court just issued a ruling in the Hyatt case showing the willingness to reconsider 40-plus-year-old precedents, and in light of medical advancements, it’s time for Roe to be re-considered.”

MORE: Ohio abortion access legal fights move ahead

A pro-life resident discussed why she believes abortion should be illegal.
A Pro-choice rally drew about 100 people to the Premier Health building on North Main Street in Dayton on Tuesday. The group protested more restrictions placed on abortions and encouraged Premier Health to make a transfer agreement with Women's Med Center of Dayton, a move needed keep the center open according to Ohio law. Two Pro-life signs were seen at the rally. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees

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