State Rep. Janine R. Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), Ranking Member of the House Health Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to the committee chairman demanding more hearings on Senate Bill (SB) 23, the six-week abortion ban, which was rushed through committee this week during the busiest part of the state budget season. Boyd also seeks explanations of last-minute changes in the latest version of the bill. She issued the following statement:
“The latest version of SB 23 contains new provisions that are even more dangerous for Ohio’s women. The ‘findings’ in Section 3 of the new and unvetted version of SB 23 indicates an alarming revelation of the priorities of this Republican majority legislature.
“Language that once read:
“’The state of Ohio has a legitimate interest from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman. The state of Ohio has a compelling interest from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the life of an unborn human individual who may be born.’ [emphasis added]
“’The state of Ohio has a legitimate and important interest from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the life of an unborn human individual who may be born.’
“If these changes are the chair’s idea of ‘crossing t’s and dotting i’s’ then Ohio health policy is in real trouble, and so are Ohioans. The overt deletion of language that speaks to protecting a woman’s health is a disgrace and abuse of legislative authority, and it exemplifies the tone of the proceedings on this bill to date.
“Any policy aiming to prevent safe access to abortion – especially proposals like SB 23 which would require almost all pregnant women to carry their pregnancies to term, without exception, risking the health and life of the pregnant woman – must not be rushed through the committee process. Health policy must be thoroughly vetted, and we are failing citizens when it’s not.
“I’ve written the following letter to the Chair of the House Committee, because, if we don’t have a real, responsible debate, one focused on protecting women rather than playing politics, then we don’t deserve to be here.”
See the letter below:
April 3, 2019
Dear Representative Merrin,
I write to express my concerns about the relentless pace and dangerous path SB 23 is taking through the people’s House.
First, legislative staff and LSC are stretched to their limits as a long and grueling transportation budget ends and the longer biennium operating budget begins. As a result, many Health Committee members have been unable to be present for much of the hearings on this bill—a bill that you and the sponsors are rushing through the committee process. We have had three, marathon-long hearings with combined testimony from all parties. These hearings have not allowed for real debate and discussion among members, nor has this divisive bill received the vetting of interested party meetings—a bill that will ultimately force almost all pregnant women to carry their pregnancies to term, if it becomes law. Ohioans deserve the democratic process that’s intended by our government, and not this misuse of policy to influence higher courts.
In addition, yesterday, a new version of the bill was revealed for the first time to committee member’s just minutes before committee started. The comparison document detailing changes from the previous Senate-passed version was also not available until committee began. No updated fiscal analysis has been completed or shared with committee members to this point. This goes against the pledge at the beginning of this General Assembly to have a more open committee process so members would have adequate time to digest bills, amendments, substitute bills, and updated analysis and fiscal impact information. Some of these changes were enshrined in House Rule 39 which requires updated analysis and fiscal impact information to be available to committee members when a substitute bill is to be considered. In violation of that rule, we were immediately required to vote on adoption of the substitute bill with no explanation of what was in it. For instance, the new bill:
- Eliminates protecting the health of women as a legitimate interest of the state
- Eliminates language meant to protect women from forced vaginal ultrasounds
- Removes medical experts from those who develop informational materials for pregnant women
Chairman Merrin, you will recall that I asked you to send this bill to a bipartisan working group for careful and thorough vetting. You did not agree to that. Therefore, we need the sponsor or bill manager to come to committee to explain the substitute bill changes. We need more hearings on this bill when members are free from other committee obligations and can be present to hear from all witnesses. We need to hear from those whose voices have not yet been part of this debate, like the Ohio business, economic development, and tourism stakeholders who have a vested interest in how women are treated in our state and how this backward bill that harms women will affect Ohio’s reputation and our economic security. We need to stop the rush to pass this bill into law before members fully understand its impact.
Let’s give this policy proposal the complete and thorough committee treatment that the families of Ohio deserve. Bills that have done far less to endanger the lives of women have been given more careful treatment and lengthier consideration than the near total abortion ban that is before us. The women and men of Ohio deserve better than that.
State Representative, District 9