I have always thought of Ohio as the home of eminently sane, down-to-earth reasonableness. It’s the state that gave us columnist Gail Collins, whose gentle humor kept me from stabbing myself in the face with a spork during the 2008 Democratic primaries. The state gave us eight presidents, four of them portly and sporting really impressive beards that would totally work if they were having a beer in a Brooklyn hipster club. It gave us Paul Newman, Woody Harrelson and Julie Haggerty. It gave us E.T. (Spielberg) and the Cathy comics. My chiropractor aunt and her nutritionist husband spent some time living lovely, polite, reasonable lives there. The biggest paper in Cleveland is called the Plain Dealer, for crying out loud. These are generally nice people who are, on balance, probably more emotionally conservative than they are socially conservative. Which is not to say that they aren’t socially conservative, they’re just not all up in your grill about it.
So, what the hell, Ohio? What’s going on with you? I understand that you’re a purple state, just like my own (Pennsylvania) and that as a rule, I’m not going to like everything you do. But you’ve gone blue in the last two elections, and came pretty darn close in the two before it. I like to think of you as my churchgoing cousin who wears a cross and hangs an American flag outside her home, but who secretly votes pro-choice because well, you believe everyone should mind their own damn business. How did you end up with an anti-choice law so strict that not only will it close three Planned Parenthoods in the state, it will, in the rare case of a complication in an outpatient abortion, prohibit the transfer of that patient to a public hospital? If you are actually pro-life, that sure is a funny way of showing it.
Earlier this year, we called attention to a certain Ohio State Representative named Jim Buchy, who in an interview with Al Jazeera, admitted that although he was busily working to restrict abortions in his state, he had not given so much as a moment’s thought to why a woman might be looking for one in the first place. The same people who think that restricting guns won’t stop people from committing crimes with them seem to think that outlawing abortion will make it go away. Peculiar. And out of character for a reserved, sensible place like Ohio.
So we get Right to Lifers crowing because they are closing clinics. Cutting poor women off from their contraceptives seems like an extraordinarily good way to cause more abortions, or at the very least, to burden the state with lots more Medicaid births, unwanted children, child abuse and food stamp bills. This is happening in Texas, and the nice conservative gentlemen in the legislature are just scratching their noodles over how this could be. We have staunch “Constitutionalists” celebrating the fact that rape crisis centers now have a gag order that says they are not allowed to counsel rape survivors about abortion as an option if they believe they are pregnant as a result of said rape. If they get caught doing so, the government can apparently “shut that whole thing down.” The First Amendment apparently doesn’t apply to people trying to help women who have been victimized. It only applies to crisis pregnancy centers who want to lie about the effects of abortion and tell you it causes breast cancer. By the time you get to the photo of the bill signing with Governor Kasich, surrounded by a bunch of – yep, you guessed it — smiling white guys, you’re not even surprised. Not one woman up there. Not even as a prop. Not even for optics. Come on, guys, now you’re just rubbing it in our faces. And that’s not Ohio’s style.
In Ohio, the abortion rate has more or less tracked the national average: that is to say, it’s been on a very, very gentle decline since 1991. And contrary to popular belief, only about 17% of those abortions are in women under 20 who ostensibly don’t know what they’re doing. They are adult women, who very much understand their actions and do not need paternalistic scolding about what they’ve got growing in there and what it will turn into if they let it keep going. They don’t need mandatory ultrasounds under the moniker of “informed consent,” while being fed lies about how abortions cause depression and suicide (post-partum depression is no more prevalent in abortions than it is in pregnancies carried naturally to term).
This is why I am always on my soapbox about state legislatures, people. I am not an Ohio resident, but based on the little bit I know about you decent folk, I can’t believe that this legislature and its overbearing, unapologetic bullying of women represents you. I have to believe that these folks snuck in while you were paying attention to something else. According to a recent Public Policy Polling poll, 52% of you don’t support the new budget specifically because, in spite of its red-meat tax cuts, it so nakedly seeks to kill Planned Parenthood, which so many women depend on for preventative care and family planning services. So how did the lunatics take over the asylum?
I don’t know enough about Ohio politics to know the answer to that question. It’s something you’re going to probably have to work out for yourselves. And dear readers from Ohio, if you happen to know, we’d love to hear from you. A legislature is supposed to be there to carry out the will of its people. All I can do is beg you to take a look at the names beside those levers before you pull them and find out who they really are. Find out what they’ve been up to. Call shenanigans if necessary. Maybe consider voting against your usual party affiliation if the incumbent has been behaving badly.
This dreadful budget is a crying shame, but you will have a chance to fix it.
2014 is coming, Ohio.