Ohio is on the verge of succumbing to a one-two punch move targeting women's reproductive rights. The Republican-led state legislature first slipped a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected into a wholly unrelated bill, then passed another 20-week ban on abortion days later. Both draconian pieces of legislation are unconstitutional, passed during the lame duck period (as Ohio's House session wraps up). But they currently sit on Gov. John Kasich's desk awaiting his signature.
One of the most virulent anti-choice politicians in office today, Kasich has until this weekend to veto both bills. But he has stayed eerily silent on the matter. His press secretary Emmalee Kalmbach's only statement regarding the bills was, "A hallmark of lame duck is a flood of bills, including bills inside of bills. We will closely examine everything we receive."
Since the state legislature passed those bills, pro-choice advocates have been urging allies to pressure Kasich to veto them both. And they're stepping up to the plate. As a reminder of the days of illegal abortion, protesters have been placing wire hangers on the Ohio Statehouse fence with messages to Kasich scrawled on them.
Wire hangers are painfully symbolic in the struggle for women's reproductive rights. Pre-Roe v. Wade when the procedure was illegal, women — particularly poor women — resorted to dangerous, sometimes fatal methods to self-abort, including inserting sharp objects into their vaginas. Often, wire hangers were used.
(In Tennessee where abortion providers are few and far between, thanks to the state's anti-abortion moves, a woman used a wire hanger to try to abort her pregnancy at 24 weeks in 2015. She will appear in court on charges of attempted murder.)
For Miller, the fight for a woman's right to choose is personal.
"Years ago... I ended up having loved ones who needed an abortion and these bills could easily have prevented that — leading to terrible consequences," he told A Plus in an email. "I am also the father of a 10-year-old daughter who may someday need to make a choice about her body and a pregnancy and I want that decision to be made between her, her doctor, and her spiritual guidance — not this legislature full of white 'Christian' fundamentalist men."
Calling Kasich's silence on the bills "deafening," Miller said: "As outspoken and off-the-cuff as Kasich can be, he has also had a tendency to pretend he plays no role in some of the more controversial (and in this case, flat out unconstitutional) legislation that our Republican-run state tries to enact."
If Kasich continues his inaction on the heartbeat bill, neither vetoing nor signing it, it will become law. "If he lets that happen, the political calculus is that then he can claim it wasn't his doing — which is bullshit," Miller added.
Miller's wire hanger idea caught on quickly, and by Saturday morning, there were "hundreds of hangers covering the Statehouse fences with messages of all sorts attached to them," he said. Local news coverage and social media helped spread the message and boost support.
The hangers were removed repeatedly, but people just kept putting more up.
Those who aren't local to the area have been ordering dozens upon dozens of hangers on the internet to be delivered to Kasich's office.
The protest has resonated outside of Ohio, too. According to Miller, a pro-choice organization is planning to use this idea as they fight similar legislation being introduced in Illinois.
As for the significance of the protest in Ohio, Miller said he hopes it reminds Kasich and other lawmakers of "what some women went through before safe abortion access." So that it will never happen again.
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