COLUMBUS, Ohio - About 70 abortion-rights supporters gathered Thursday outside the Ohio Statehouse to protest restrictions on abortion providers that Republican lawmakers slipped into the proposed state budget at the last minute.
The Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice scheduled the rally ahead of votes planned in the House and Senate on Ohio's $62 billion, two-year budget plan.
One provision would require abortion providers to inform pregnant women seeking the procedure if a fetal heartbeat is present; another says a doctor can't perform an abortion without determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat "unless there is a medical emergency" and redefines what constitutes a medical emergency.
"Not only is the content of this reprehensible and controlling measures offensive, the way they tried to slip these provisions into the budget bill (was) like thieves in the night," Democratic Sen. Nina Turner told the crowd. "They need to stand up and have some courage and stop showing cowardice."
Republicans successfully amended the bill this week.
Three gynecologists who practice in Columbus clinics condemned the proposed changes, particularly the redefinition of a medical emergency. They said it would limit the time they have to save the life of a woman who needs an abortion to survive.
"Do I tell the patient and family I cannot intervene unless she has a stroke or worse?" said Dr. Anita Somani. "Or do I risk going to jail because I'm doing what's best for my patient by saving her life and the cost of her pre-viable fetus?"
The protesters also opposed a budget provision that effectively defunds Planned Parenthood, whose health care offerings to low-income patients can include abortions. At the end of the rally, they chanted "line-item veto" in calling upon Republican Gov. John Kasich to eliminate the restrictions.
Kasich opposes abortion, but has not said whether he would remove the restrictions.