(Columbus) - Opponents of abortion-related limits inserted into Ohio's state budget are exploring legal challenges and the possibility of forcing lawmakers to vote again on the provisions, the Democratic challenger to Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday.
Funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and abortion-related restrictions placed on publicly funded hospitals and counselors at taxpayer-funded rape crisis centers are out of step with mainstream Ohio voters, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said.
"We don't believe that the people of Ohio are actually in favor of these things. We don't think that they would survive if people actually had the opportunity to vote on them," FitzGerald said.
Challenging the entire two-year, $62 billion state budget isn't an option, but elements of the bill could be forced before the Republican-dominated legislature in January through what's called an initiated statute.
If it were successful, lawmakers would have four months to act on the bill put before them. If they fail to do so, opponents could put the same legislation to voters in November 2014. That's when FitzGerald will face off against Kasich. Both steps in the process would require collecting 118,000 signatures.
"People are frustrated and they want to take action on this," he said.
FitzGerald contrasted the situation to the fight in 2011 over a law limiting collective bargaining by unionized public workers that was overturned at the ballot box.
He stopped short of committing his campaign or the Ohio Democratic Party as leaders of the effort, saying it will be important to have a broad coalition of interests for the effort to be successful.
"We're not saying definitively today 'yes we will to do it.' It's going to have to be a coalition, but we're trying to get the conversation started," he said.
Across the street from the FitzGerald news conference, several women marched on the sidewalk in support of the budget amendments.
"A Gallup Poll was released in May proving that 58 percent of American women want virtually all abortions banned," said Emmalee Kalmbach with Ohio Right to Life.
She says groups like Planned Parenthood should be at the back of the funding line because they don't serve the majority of Ohio women like community health centers do.
"We have community health centers all over the state versus Planned Parenthood clinics, which I think they have about 30," Kalmbach said. "We're trying to give the funds where the women go and help support women and children."
Kalmbach also noted that when the rape crisis center issue came up in the House earlier in the session it was approved unanimously, but now it's being contested by Democrats after being inserted into the budget.
"That just to me comes across as hypocritical. If you're for something then say you are for something and mean you're for something. If you're not for something then don't stand up and vote yes," she said.
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