Anti-abortion amendments added to proposed Ohio budget bill

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 07, 2011 5:44 PM
Anti-abortion amendments added to proposed Ohio budget bill

By Jo Ingles

COLUMBUS (Reuters) - Two amendments restricting abortions in public hospitals and clinics were added to the Ohio Senate's proposed budget bidon Tuesday, a day before lawmakers are set to vote on it.

The amendments would restrict public hospitals and clinics that receive state funding from performing abortions and prevent anyone who is on a publicly subsidized health care plan from using their insurance coverage to pay for abortions.

Ohio is one of several states with Republican majorities in the General Assembly and Republican governors pushing for new abortion restrictions this year. New limits on the procedure have been signed into law in other states, including Indiana, Florida, South Dakota and Idaho.

Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, said the amendments mirror current Ohio law that prohibits state employees from using their publicly subsidized health care to pay for abortions.

"It extends that same level of protection for the unborn at the local level," Niehaus said.

The proposed amendments do not apply to charter counties and cities that have home rule status. That includes some of Ohio's major cities, including Cleveland and Toledo.

While the amendments are expected to pass the Republican-dominated Senate, it is unclear how many people it would affect.

Senate President Niehaus could not point to one specific facility that would be affected.

Even so, Kelly Copeland with the National Abortion Rights Action League of Ohio says she thinks the measures could be unconstitutional.

She also said there should have been hearings on the amendments.

"You know when you are doing something that's honorable, you do it out in the light of day and you have an honest debate," Copeland said. "When you do something that's shameful, you add it at the 11th hour when no one can have a public debate about it."

The Ohio Right to Life Society backs the amendments. Spokeswoman Stephanie Krider said it's hard to say how many abortions might be prevented by it. She said the language targets elective abortion, and exempts abortions necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.

Once the Senate passes the budget bill, which is expected to Wednesday, it will go to the House.

(Writing and reporting by Jo Ingles; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)