Ohio lawmakers join attorney general in national push to overturn Roe v. Wade

Abortion rights advocates see peril, point to gerrymandering

By: - August 4, 2021 12:55 am

Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Robin Bravender/States Newsroom.

The fact that a host of Ohio legislators have now followed state Attorney General Dave Yost in filing their support for overturning nationwide abortion rights law isn’t surprising to advocates.

The fact that so many states are preparing or already planning to challenge Roe v. Wade is a little more concerning.

“Roe is in the most peril it has ever been in since 1973,” said Dr. Jessie Hill, a cooperating attorney with the ACLU and a professor at Case Western Reserve University’s law school.

Hill is a part of litigation against abortion laws in the state, like the 6-week abortion ban, legislation that was blocked by a federal court in 2019, and remains tangled in the court system.

Many of these cases are in limbo, awaiting a decision on Roe v. Wade. The U.S. Supreme Court decision is facing a challenge spurred on by legal challenges to a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi.

“This is going to be a really telling moment when the Supreme Court decides this case,” Hill told the OCJ on Tuesday.

State legislators on briefs against Roe v. Wade:

  • Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mt. Lookout
  • Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Twp.
  • Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester
  • Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville
  • Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp.
  • Rep. Bill Dean, R-Xenia
  • Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery
  • Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond
  • Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason
  • Rep. Craig S. Riedel, R-Defiance
  • Rep. Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria
  • Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield
  • Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, R-Ashtabula
  • Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland
  • Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum
  • Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City
  • Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson

State legislators from Ohio joined a brief of more than 300 state legislators from 35 states. Yet another brief by national anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List was signed by five state legislators from Ohio.

Nine U.S. Congressmen from Ohio, all Republican, signed a supportive brief as well in overturning Roe:

  • Troy Balderson
  • Steve Chabot
  • Warren Davidson
  • Bob Gibbs
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jim Jordan
  • Robert E. Latta
  • Michael R. Turner
  • Brad Wenstrup
  • Rob Portman

In one of the court briefs, state representatives and senators say the very existence of legislatures is “to protect the health and welfare of their state’s respective citizens.”

“This includes the creation of standards and regulations that protect the most vulnerable in society,” the brief states.

The governmental leaders acknowledge, however, that “reasonable abortion regulations” enacted by state legislatures have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts in the past.

“The state legislators contend that the ruling in this case will have far-reaching consequences for legislatures across the country,” the legislators’ brief stated. “In particular, it will affect the state legislators’ ability to propose, enact and defend future abortion legislation.”

Ohio AG Dave Yost joined nearly two dozen state attorneys general this week in asking the Supreme Court to change direction on the Roe decision.

The nation’s highest court may not make a decision in the Mississippi case until next year, but the fight being undertaken by anti-abortion advocates and state leadership comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court leans more conservative.

“I think it’s hard to imagine an outcome after this case is heard in which Roe is, if not overturned, really substantially modified,” Hill said.

Because any change to Roe v. Wade will spur more attempts to regulate abortion in Ohio — a reintroduced bill that would ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned is currently awaiting review in the Ohio legislature — Hill and other abortion supporters say the true solution to attacks on abortion care is eliminating gerrymandered districts.

“What we’ve seen is just more and more of this competition of who can outdo the other on abortion restrictions,” said Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Miracle and Hill both said gerrymandering has caused the political parties in the state to become more focused on how intensely they can prove themselves to be against issues like abortion, rather than how representative their opinion is of their district.

“Ohio is pretty evenly divided, and tends to be fairly moderate on this and many other issues,” Hill said. “The politics of the legislature is not what it is overall in Ohio.”

The Pew Research Center showed in its most recent state breakdown of public opinion on abortion that 48% of Ohioans approve of abortion in most cases, ahead of 47% against abortion legality in most cases.

Nationally, the gap widens with 59% of American adults polled by Pew saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Abortion is legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks gestation.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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