Several Ohio state representatives who normally take an anti-abortion stance are now pushing pro-choice legislation - sort of.
Led by Rep. John Adams, a group of state legislators have submitted a bill that would give fathers of unborn children a final say in whether or not an abortion can take place.
"This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child," said Adams, a Republican from Sidney. "I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."
As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort.
Claiming to not know the father's identity is not a viable excuse, according to the proposed legislation. Simply put: no father means no abortion.
"I'm really pleased that this has been proposed for one reason - it draws attention to the fact that many men are concerned and care for their unborn children," said Denise Mackura, the director of the Ohio Right to Life Society. "You have no idea how many men call telling me about their girlfriends who plan to abort, asking what they can do to help her. They do want to help and they should have a voice."
With the proposal, men would be guaranteed that voice under penalty of law. First time violators would by tried for abortion fraud, a first degree misdemeanor. The same would be the case for men who falsely claim to be fathers and for medical workers who knowingly perform an abortion without paternal consent.
In addition, women would be required to present a police report in order to prove a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
As is the case whenever abortion is the topic, sharp opposition has come from members of the House, along with multiple activist groups. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Activist League and the Ohio Right to Life Society have both spoken out against the legislation.
"This extreme bill shows just how far some of our state legislators are willing to go to rally a far-right base that is frustrated with the pro-choice gains made in the last election," said NARAL Pro-choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland. "It is completely out of touch with Ohio's mainstream values. This measure is a clear attack on a woman's freedom and privacy."
The proposal came less than two weeks after Rep. Tom Brinkman proposed legislation that would ban all abortions in Ohio. Brinkman, a Republican from Cincinnati, was one of eight representatives to co-sponsor Adams' bill.
With the recent liberal swing in Ohio state government, neither bill is likely to come to fruition. However, Adams' less extreme proposal has an outside chance of becoming law - a law that would have a major impact in Portage County and surrounding areas.
Portage has been among the leading Ohio counties in abortion-to-birth ratios since abortion was legalized in 1973. Since 1996, about 20 percent of Portage County pregnancies have been aborted - the seventh highest percentage in the state according to information from the Ohio Department of Health. The total comes to more than 4,300 abortions in 10 years.
Cuyahoga County has the highest abortion percentage with more than 30 percent of its residents' pregnancies being terminated. Summit County is also near the top of the list with a 21 percent termination rate.
Mackura doesn't think those numbers are likely to change anytime soon, though. Precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court indicates that, even if Adams' bill passed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.
"Simply taking a look at this as a possibility is a step in the right direction," Mackura said. "Pregnancy is a unique human condition and obviously a woman is affected differently than a man. As a woman, I can sympathize. However, to completely take rights away from the father is unfair.
"Currently, even in a marriage situation, a man has no right to even be informed of an abortion. But if a woman doesn't have an abortion, men sure have a lot of responsibility then. It's really not fair."
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