News Politics

ELECTION 2012: Despite National Election Victories, All’s Not Well In Ohio

Robin Marty

Despite being the state that tipped Obama over the top in electoral votes, reproductive rights in Ohio may be in more danger than ever before.

There was a festive, victorious air as news shows and pundits declared Ohio a win for President Barack Obama, putting him over the top in the electoral college and securing his reelection. Democrats were nearly as overjoyed when Senator Sherrod Brown won what had become a neck-and-neck battle with Republican Josh Mandel, beating the GOP rising star by five percentage points.

Sadly, that surge of blue didn’t trickle down when it came to Ohio’s state legislature. What was already a predominately anti-choice House and Senate appears to have become even more hostile to women’s reproductive rights. The only judge on the state Supreme Court who didn’t oppose abortion was ousted from office, and the fate of two races that are still too close to call could mean the difference between a house block so powerful it could override all vetos and put anti-choice legislation straight on the ballot or one that still has to get hundreds of thousands of citizen signatures for approval first.

Although the election proved positive for women’s rights at the federal level, the opposite is true in many states. Conservative groups, frustrated by their inability to win the White House, their failure to take over the Senate, and their loss of gains made in many states during the Tea Party wave election in 2010 have decided that their fatal flaw in 2012 was not emphasizing anti-choice issues enough.

According to NPR, conservative groups have vowed to take their 2012 losses as a sign to fight harder, and will increase their efforts at the state level pass more rules and regulations over abortion, birth control, and health care. At a press conference attended by NPR’s Kathy Lohr, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said:

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“If you truly believe that you are living in a great human civil rights movement, you don’t give up. That is why we grow as a movement. So this is the beginning of a new cycle.”

Anti-choice activists and politicians will be looking to flex their muscles and use their power in the limited areas where they still have majorities. For a state like Ohio, that means the over-the-top bills from the last few years may just be the beginning. Ohio Right to Life will continue to push onerous anti-choice bills in through the statehouse, with Ohio Right to Life president Mike Gonidakis saying they “refuse to relent simply because of the presidential outcome,” according to Gongwer Ohio News Service.

Ohio Right to Life looks forward to advancing our robust pro-life agenda we have crafted for 2013. As we look to grow and expand, we commit to our statewide membership that we will be on the front lines and serve as a voice for the voiceless.

That “robust” agenda includes trying yet again to de-fund Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, as well as another potential push to get Janet Porter’s “heartbeat ban” back on the docket. The radical attempt to ban abortion from the point at which a heartbeat could be detected—as early as 28 days post conception—stalled in the senate when Senate president Tom Neihaus refused to let it out of committee for a vote. However, Neihaus will not be returning in 2013, and Republican Keith Faber will be taking over as president. Faber has previously said that he would vote for the bill should it make it to the floor for a vote. Whether he would be willing to let it out of committee is less clear.

There may not be long to wait to find out. A lame duck session of the legislature begins on Wednesday, November 14th, and could stretch all the way until the end of the year if lawmakers were really so inclined. A Planned Parenthood bill is expected to be introduced for sure, and the heartbeat ban may very well be as well. News of a compromise between anti-choice groups Ohio Right to Life and Faith2Action, Porter’s more extreme wing is hitting the news stands. Although the compromise is under wraps, the bill will likely either be reintroduced as simply an informed consent mandatory ultrasound bill with a patient being required to listen to the heart beat, or as it was previously, with reliance on the severability of the bill as written, which would let the ban be cut off from the rest of the pre-abortion requirements if found unconstitutional.

It all depends on exactly how bold Ohio’s anti-choice movement decides to go.

“We’re still figuring out where the House might fall out with its new members,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told Rewire regarding the potential resurgence of the “heartbeat ban.” “Part of it is not just the numbers. Some of it is the political damage that they’ve done to their own cause. There’s bad blood, particularly on the senate side, with some of them going after senators, calling them RINOs [Republicans In Name Only].”

Faber, according to Copeland, is as “anti-choice as they come,” pointing to previous sponsorship of bills such as allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception. His leadership in the senate combined with a near veto-proof majority could make an already reproductive rights hostile state a hotbed for anti-choice legislation.

So is Ohio doomed? Not necessarily. Republican Governor John Kasich is a major supporter of the state’s anti-choice organizations, and has begun placing anti-choicers  into key state health care positions, such as Gonidakis’s recent appointment to the state medical board. However, he also is up for reelection in 2014 and will need to tread cautiously when it comes to reproductive health bills. If the results of the 2012 election taught politicians one lesson, it was that when it comes to trying to win a race that encompasses a full state—not just a tightly-controlled district with favorable demographics—denying a woman access to abortion and birth control is not a winning platform.

For a governor who saw the majority of voters across the state reject a party platform that embraced limiting a woman’s right to choose, signing on to the state GOP’s anti-women agenda could tank his chances for reelection. Will Kasich be willing to torpedo his own political career to support anti-choice legislation? The answer to that question could have the women of Ohio’s lives hanging in the balance.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Tim Kaine Outlines Plan to ‘Make Housing Fair’

Ally Boguhn

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It's part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Donald Trump made some controversial changes to his campaign staff this week, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted his commitment to better housing policies.

Trump Hires Controversial Conservative Media Figure

Republican presidential nominee Trump made two notable additions to his campaign staff this week, hiring Breitbart News’ Stephen Bannon as CEO and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager.

“I have known Steve and Kellyanne both for many years. They are extremely capable, highly qualified people who love to win and know how to win,” said Trump in a Wednesday statement announcing the hires. “I believe we’re adding some of the best talents in politics, with the experience and expertise needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in November and continue to share my message and vision to Make America Great Again.”

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Both have been criticized as being divisive figures.

Conway, for example, previously advised then-client Todd Akin to wait out the backlash after his notorious “legitimate rape” comments, comparing the controversy to “the Waco with David Koresh situation where they’re trying to smoke him out with the SWAT teams.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conway is also “often cited by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim organizations such as the think tank Center for Security Policy and NumbersUSA.”

Under Bannon’s leadership, “mainstream conservative website” Breitbart.com changed “into a cesspool of the alt-right,” suggested the publication’s former editor at large, Ben Shapiro, in a piece for the Washington Post‘s PostEverything. “It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.”

Speaking with ABC News this week, Kurt Bardella, who also previously worked with Bannon at Breitbart, alleged that Bannon had exhibited “nationalism and hatred for immigrants, people coming into this country to try to get a better life for themselves” during editorial calls.

“If anyone sat there and listened to that call, you’d think that you were attending a white supremacist rally,” said Bardella.

Trump’s new hire drew heated criticism from the Clinton campaign in a Wednesday press call. “The Breitbart organization has been known to defend white supremacists,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager. After pointing to an analysis from the SPLC linking Breitbart to the extremist alt-right movement, Mook listed a number of other controversial positions pushed by the site.

“Breitbart has compared the work of Planned Parenthood to the Holocaust. They’ve also repeatedly used anti-LGBT slurs in their coverage. And finally, like Trump himself, Breitbart and Bannon have frequently trafficked in all sorts of deranged conspiracy theories from touting that President Obama was not born in America to claiming that the Obama Administration was ‘importing more hating Muslims.’”

“It’s clear that [Trump’s] divisive, erratic, and dangerous rhetoric simply represents who he really is,” continued Mook.

Kaine Outlines Plan to “Make Housing Fair”

Clinton’s vice presidential nominee Kaine wrote an essay for CNN late last week explaining how the Clinton-Kaine ticket can “make housing fair” in the United States.

“A house is more than just a place to sleep. It’s part of the foundation on which a family can build a life,” wrote Kaine. “Where you live determines the jobs you can find, the schools your children can attend, the air you breathe and the opportunities you have. And when you are blocked from living where you want, it cuts to the core of who you are.”

Kaine shared the story of Lorraine, a young Black woman who had experienced housing discrimination, whom Kaine had represented pro bono just after completing law school.

“This is one issue that shows the essential role government can play in creating a fairer society. Sen. Ed Brooke, an African-American Republican from Massachusetts, and Sen. Walter Mondale, a white Democrat from Minnesota, came together to draft the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination in the housing market,” noted Kaine, pointing to the 1968 law.

“Today, more action is still needed. That’s why Hillary Clinton and I have a bold, progressive plan to fight housing inequities across Americaespecially in communities that have been left out or left behind,” Kaine continued.

The Virginia senator outlined some of the key related components of Clinton’s “Breaking Every Barrier Agenda,” including an initiative to offer $10,000 in down payment assistance to new homebuyers that earn less than the median income in a given area, and plans to “bolster resources to enforce Fair Housing laws and fight housing discrimination in all its forms.”

The need for fair and affordable housing is a pressing issue for people throughout the country.

“It is estimated that each year more than four million acts of [housing] discrimination occur in the rental market alone,” found a 2015 analysis by the National Fair Housing Alliance.

No county in the United States has enough affordable housing to accommodate the needs of those with low incomes, according to a 2015 report released by the Urban Institute. “Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased,” explained the report. “Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income.”

What Else We’re Reading

CBS News’ Will Rahn penned a primer explaining Trump campaign CEO Bannon’s relationship to the alt-right.

White supremacists and the alt-right “rejoice[d]” after Trump hired Bannon, reported Betsy Woodruff and Gideon Resnick for the Daily Beast.

Clinton published an essay in Teen Vogue this week encouraging young people to fight for what they care about, learn from those with whom they disagree, and get out the vote.

“In calling for ‘extreme vetting’ of foreigners entering the United States, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested a return to a 1950s-era immigration standard—since abandoned—that barred entry to people based on their political beliefs,” explained USA Today.

Trump wants to cut a visa program “his own companies have used … to bring in hundreds of foreign workers, including fashion models for his modeling agency who need exhibit no special skills,” according to a report by the New York Times.

A Koch-backed group “has unleashed an aggressive campaign to kill a ballot measure in South Dakota that would require Koch-affiliated groups and others like them to reveal their donors’ identities.”

News Law and Policy

Federal Judge Guts Florida GOP’s Omnibus Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

"For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” said Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away."

A federal judge on Thursday permanently blocked two provisions of a Florida omnibus anti-choice law that banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds and required annual inspections of all clinics that provide abortion services, reported the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order in June to delay implementation of the law.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that a government cannot prohibit indirectly—by withholding otherwise-available public funds—conduct that the government could not constitutionally prohibit directly,” Hinkle wrote in the 25-page ruling.  

Thursday’s decision came after Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration decided not to pursue further legal action to defend the law, and filed a joint motion to end the litigation.

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Hinkle issued a three page decision making the injunction permanent.

HB 1411, sponsored by Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland), was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March.

The judge’s ruling nixed provisions in the law that banned state funding of abortion care and required yearly clinic inspections. Other provisions of the law that remain in effect include additional reporting requirements for abortion providers, redefining “third trimester,” and revising the care of fetal remains.

The GOP-backed anti-choice law has already had a damaging effect in Palm Beach County, where Planned Parenthood was forced to end a program that focused on teen dropout prevention.

Barbara Zdravecky, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for thousands of Floridians” who rely on the organization for reproductive health care.

“For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can turn to,” Zdravecky said. “We may be the only place they can go in their community, or the only place that offers the screening or birth control method they need. No one should have their basic health care taken away.”

A spokesperson for Scott told Reuters that the administration is “reviewing” the decision.

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