Ohio Republicans including hard-right Gov. John Kasich and a conservative GOP legislature can pass, and have passed, any bill they want, regardless of whether it’s constitutional or not.
But two Federal court rulings Tuesday stopped two bills—one to defund Planned Parenthood and a second to eliminate “Golden Week”—in their tracks.
One decision Monday, by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett of Cincinnati, barred Ohio Department of Health Director Richard Hodges from enforcing a law that was to have taken effect Monday to strip $1.5 million from the organization, the AP reported.
Planned Parenthood Saved By The Bell
Judge Barrett ruled that Planned Parenthood had demonstrated a “likelihood of success” in the courts, so he granted a temporary restraining order through June 6 in ordering the state to reinstate its terminated contracts with the group. Planned Parenthood Ohio provides abortion services at three of its 28 Ohio clinics. The three Planned Parenthood clinics performed about 30 percent (6,237) of the 21,186 abortions performed in Ohio in 2014 — and 36 percent of those in Franklin County.
President of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Iris E. Harvey, said in a statement following the ruling, “The courts rejected Gov. Kasich and Ohio legislators’ attack on people who already have the least access to care. They attempted to block Planned Parenthood patients from care, all in the name of politics. Politicians had gone as far as to claim women can get cancer screenings at food banks. The court just called their bluff.” A spokeswoman for the state Health Department declined to comment.
In his order, Judge Barrett wrote the law would be “depriving thousands of Ohioans of high-quality, affordable health-care services and education programs.” The law “bears no rational relationship to Ohio’s stated interest of favoring childbirth,” the AP reported. “There is also no doubt that the Ohio legislature enacted (the law) for the purpose of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking to obtain an abortion,” he added.
Michael Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, issued his own statement: “Yet again, an activist judge jumps to Planned Parenthood’s rescue, showcasing the special privilege Planned Parenthood has, even in a state of pro-life voters. Despite the will of the people, Planned Parenthood will continue to feed at the trough of taxpayer dollars for another two weeks. Today, Planned Parenthood’s greed and power are on full display in Ohio.”
State Rep. and House Democratic Whip Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) also chimed in on the Planned Parenthood news. “Judge Barrett’s ruling today sends a positive signal to healthcare advocates and women throughout our state. By temporarily blocking the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Ohio, the courts are effectively recognizing this bill for what it is – political posturing that puts women, infants and families in greater danger. I remain hopeful that these politically motivated healthcare restrictions will be stopped once and for all. Ohioans deserve comprehensive access to healthcare services.”
On the presidential campaign trail, Gov. Kasich tried to avoid the topic all together, but went on record saying he believed the bogus, manipulated video gathered by a right-wing hit group that alleged the group was selling baby parts. Ohio’s 64-year old lame duck governor stayed away from women’s health issues for good reason, Ohio has some of the nation’s worse laws and he signed them into law, some of them without having one hearing for the public to weigh-in on.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who’s challenging Sen. Rob Portman this year, blasted the bill for reducing the availability of lifesaving healthcare services. Mr. Strickland, who’s neck and neck with Portman in the polls, said Republicans passing this law is a “reminder that, while women’s healthcare remains under attack in Ohio, at the federal level Senator Rob Portman also has a long record of championing measures that would dramatically restrict a woman’s access to affordable healthcare and birth control.” Mr. Strickland wants to keep a woman’s healthcare choices between her and her doctor, and urged a return to “supporting, not crippling, organizations that provide these kinds of lifesaving healthcare services.”
Golden Week Golden Again
A second important ruling came today, as well, this one on restoring “Golden Week,” a week when Ohio voters could both register to vote and cast an early ballot at the same location. Democrats were over joyed with both decisions.
The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) released a statement from Chairman David Pepper in response to a final order restoring “Golden Week” for Ohio voters. The case was brought by the ODP, Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and Montgomery County Democratic Party.
“Today’s decision is a huge win for Ohio voters, who will now have the original window for early voting restored, along with ability to register to vote and cast their ballot on the same day,” said Pepper. “In 2012, more than 80,000 Ohioans cast a ballot during ‘Golden Week,’ and of those, more than 14,000 were new or updated registrations.
Judge Watson found that eliminating “Golden Week” imposed a disproportionate burden on African-American voters, and the judge’s order states that eliminating “Golden Week” was unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act because of the burden it placed on African-American voters.
Reports said Ohio officials, as they have before when a judge ruled against them, will appeal the decision.
“It’s a shame that once again our legislature, governor, attorney general and secretary of state cannot figure out how to abide by the constitutional rights of their own voters. The judge found no merit in any of their justifications for the burden they placed on African American voters. How many losses in court, and how many wasted tax dollars, are going to convince them to respect Ohioans’ right to vote?” Pepper said.
From the findings of fact in the decision by District Court Judge Michael Watson: “EIP [early in-person] voting in homogenous black blocks was 4.316 times higher than homogenous white blocks in 2008… 4.4476 times higher in 2012… usage rates of Golden Week specifically were far higher among African Americans than among whites in both 2008 and 2012… In other words, in 2008, for example, ‘the rate of voting early in person during golden week is three and a half times greater in homogenous black blocks than homogenous white blocks.’”
Time after time, Gov. Kasich, who finally suspended his presidential campaign after losing 46 races and winning just one, his home state of Ohio, and other state players, like Ohio’s elections chief, have conspired to pass bills designed to suppress voting that subsequently were found unconstitutional by the courts. Mr. Kasich was as silent on the campaign trail about his efforts to limit voting as he was on his efforts to limit a woman’s right to access her constitutional rights to an abortion.