"I own this body, not the government!"
So stated state representative Tracy Heard, in an emotional appeal to activists rallying yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse against a proposed invasive "Heartbeat Bill." Heard represents Ohio's 26th District and is the Minority Whip in the Ohio House.
"As a descendent of slaves and a proud member of the United Auto Worker's Union, I'm extremely sensitive to the concept that the government can tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body. That is exactly what these so-called advocates for 'small government' have put forward with this piece of horrible legislation."
Heard was addressing hundreds gathered for a "Stop the Heartbeat Bill" Lobby Day in Columbus, protesting one of the most regressive anti-choice bills introduced by the GOP majority in Ohio. It would essentially outlaw abortions, without any exception because of rape, incest or the health of the mother, at the time any "heartbeat" can be heard by physicians. Activists came from across Ohio to lobby legislators, rally and network with allies, to stop the attacks coming from a right-wing Republican dominated legislature on women in the state.
"I thought that we'd won our rights when we won Row vs. Wade, when we won the rights we fought for in the sixties," said Susan Childs, Director for Development for Planned Parenthood for Central Ohio. "I have daughters and have used Planned Parenthood for my health, for them. I'd fought in the sixties and really felt as though we'd won rights, dignity for the next generation. Now it's as though the absolute worst, most backward elements have been resurrected and we have to fight the same fights all over again."
Childs went on, speaking of the upsurge of involvement by thousands of new activists, young people, both men and women, in the growing struggle to defend women's rights now under attack by mainly Republican legislatures across the nation.
"I just received a check for $1,000, with 'I'm outraged!' written in the memo line a couple days ago. We're seeing especially young women coming in, looking for ways to volunteer to help in the fight. The whole Short North District (a large development district in Columbus) has officially adopted Planned Parenthood as their own group, raising money and helping out. So many workers there are low wage service workers and they depend on Planned Parenthood for their ability to obtain health care."
"I have daughters. I have a wife, sister and other women in my life. This attack isn't just on women, it's on all of us," said Dave Girves, when asked why he was attending the rally. Dave is the former owner of the Jai Lai restaurant, a famous eatery in Columbus. "I used to be a Republican and anti-abortion," he said, "but nobody could tell me what an abortion was. Was it taking a pill? Was it contraception? They have become so radical that it's really just about denying women their rights."
About a quarter of the 300 folks at the rally were men. Young women, especially those new to the struggle were prominent in the crowd.
Leah Norman and Shannon Sundry, students from Worthington High School carried signs stating; "Our bodies are our own!"
"We were asked to do reports on something that meant something to us, so we both chose this," said Shannon. "Nobody has the right to tell us what we can do with our own bodies, nobody!"
They both spoke about a dramatic increase in activism among students. "Everyone in the group I hang with is involved. We just see all the things we thought were rights are being taken away. It's not fair! We need to all get involved," added Leah.
"This bill is unconstitutional, but that doesn't stop them," said Ohio state senator Capri Cafaro. "It'll take us, women and men, and the thousands of people we'll talk to when we leave here. It is all of us, united, together, that will stop them, and we are not going away!"