COLUMBUS- State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today announced they will file the Protect Child Victims Act, legislation giving the Ohio Attorney General’s office the ability to make emergency awards from the Crime Victim Compensation Fund for any healthcare treatment, including abortion care, for child victims of sexual assault and abuse.
“Child rape victims should have access to the abortion care they need in Ohio. We should not further traumatize those precious little bodies and minds by forcing them to go through nine months of pregnancy, child birth, parenthood, and all those health and safety risks that come with it, if they decide otherwise. As a mother, I can’t comprehend doing that to a child against their will, but sadly this is the unfortunate world Ohio’s out-of-touch Republican extremists want for them,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “We are committed to removing any barrier that stands in the way of their healing, including the cost of travel and receiving an abortion after being assaulted.”
Administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, and paid for by criminal fines as opposed to tax dollars, the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation program assists victims with out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the crime. The Protect Child Victims Act would ensure all healthcare expenses resulting from a child sexual assault, including those received out-of-state and abortion care, are eligible for an emergency award of up to $2,000. The awards are made at the discretion of the Ohio Attorney General.
Senate Bill (SB) 23, Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban, has already forced a 10-year old Ohio girl who became pregnant as a result of being raped to leave the state to receive an abortion. While an Ohio court has blocked SB 23 indefinitely, Statehouse Republicans have made it clear they want to ban abortion completely in Ohio. This legislation would financially support child victims such as this 10-year old girl. 538 children received abortion care in 2021, with 57 of these children being younger than 15 years-old, below Ohio’s age of consent.
“This is just one more way we can improve Ohio’s culture of reporting and supporting. We should encourage the reporting of sexual offenses and support the child victims who desperately need our help,” said Rep. Galonski. “Ohio’s children need us to step up, and parents deserve to know what we are doing to keep them safe. We hope to have bipartisan support in our efforts to protect Ohio’s children.”
While Ohio law generally prohibits state and local funds from being used for payment or reimbursement for abortion services, pregnancies that result from a rape that is reported to law enforcement remain eligible. Eligibility for the emergency award in the Protect Child Victims Act would require reporting to and cooperation with law enforcement, processes that are consistent with other crimes eligible for reparations at the discretion of the Ohio Attorney General. An emergency award of $2,000 would be deducted from a final award, up to $50,000, through the Crime Victims Compensation Fund’s normal application process.
Reps. Lepore-Hagan and Galonski are among the Democratic lawmakers and leaders in Ohio on efforts to support abortion care access and sexual assault survivors. Rep. Lepore-Hagan is the lead sponsor of House Joint Resolution 5 (HJR 5), the Reproductive Freedom Act, legislation initiating a statewide vote on an amendment to Ohio’s constitution guaranteeing the right to personal decision making on all matters related to pregnancy, family planning and contraceptives.
In April of 2021, Rep. Galonski introduced House Bill (HB) 266, the Hidden Predator Act, legislation eliminating the statute of limitations for rape, removing Ohio’s marital loophole for rape, and extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. She has also introduced similar pieces of legislation championing justice for survivors of sexual violence in the previous two General Assemblies.
“Our efforts in government should be focused on helping law enforcement deal with actual criminals. Extremists instead are dedicating resources toward criminalizing innocent children who have been through a traumatic, horrific event,” said Rep. Galonski.
“This is a scary time, but we have hope. We want to give our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including Ohio’s Attorney General, as many opportunities as possible to wrap these kids in love and show them we all care. This should not be a partisan issue,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “There are still people, like Rep. Galonski and I, who are fighting for our children’s future.”