In the decades since Jane Addams, Crystal Eastman, and Helen Keller worked with other civil libertarians to found the American Civil Liberties Union, the expansion of women’s rights has become a core part of the ACLU’s mission. Women have sought the right to control one’s own body, to have equal educational and economic opportunities, and to fair treatment under the criminal justice system.
What's Happening in Ohio
Twenty-eight U.S. Senators submitted a letter to the Honorable Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), expressing their support for HUD’s efforts to combat discriminatory nuisance ordinances that unfairly target survivors of domestic violence. Many nuisance laws attempt to abate unreasonable or unlawful use of property, or disturbances of the peace, that may be an annoyance to the general public. While nuisance laws purport to create safe neighborhoods, they can unfairly target survivors of domestic violence, who are often found in violation of these ordinances because of behaviors initiated by their partners. If found guilty of too many violations, tenants must be evicted, or their landlords can face penalties ranging from significant fines to loss of rental permits or property foreclosure. The collateral effect of eviction places survivors at risk for homelessness and increased vulnerability.
Specific instances of nuisance ordinances placing additional burdens on survivors of domestic violence have been documented in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and Berlin, New Hampshire, where both municipalities passed strict laws. Signatories to the letter end their appeal by urging HUD to ensure tenants can maintain secure housing and necessary emergency assistance without fear of eviction because of mandated consequences imposed by local nuisance regulations.
The ACLU of Ohio in a letter called on Governor John Kasich to exercise his line-item veto powers to reject abortion limitations included in the new state budget.
Requirements within House Bill 64 jeopardize the health of women across Ohio. These restrictions are an attack on reproductive freedoms and unnecessarily target the autonomy of Ohio women.
The budget language requires clinics that provide abortions to have transfer agreements with local hospitals within 30 miles. Many medical professionals have condemned such restrictions in the past as an undue burden on the medical field and on the women who need medical care.
The second provision would allow the state to close clinics by failing to respond to a clinic’s request for a variance (an exception). In short, the state can just neglect to hear a request from a clinic to deviate from zoning requirements. This could mandate the closing of such clinics that provide abortions without a hearing or explanation after 60 days. Doing so infringes upon due process rights.
Again, we urge Governor Kasich to exercise his line-item veto powers to stop these provisions from being enacted into law.
The Ohio General Assembly started its new session in January 2015 and the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” has already been reintroduced. House Bill 69 recently had its second committee hearing in the House and, once again, the ACLU of Ohio testified against it. Like previous versions, the bill would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The ACLU has promised to sue if this bill passes.
House Bill 248 (HB 248), commonly known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” was first introduced in the 2013-2014 session of the Ohio House in August of 2013. This is an extremely invasive bill that aimed to ban abortions in Ohio once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. The bill contained no exceptions for survivors of sexual violence or incest. While it claimed there was an exception to prevent the death or serious harm of the pregnant woman, it still subjected the woman and the physician performing the abortion to government unnecessary and intrusive scrutiny. It was sponsored by Reps. Christina Hagan (R., Alliance) and Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon).
The bill was passed out of the House Health and Aging Committee in a party-line vote of 11 to 6 on November 20, 2014, during the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly. On December 10, 2014, HB 248 failed on the House floor. For more information, visit our legislative page.
Every year, Equal Pay Day reminds us of the number of extra days a woman in the U.S. must work before she is paid the same amount as the average man.
It has been more than fifty years since the signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and women across the nation are still fighting for basic paycheck equality.
In Ohio, Democrats are currently pushing for an Ohio Equal Pay Act to bring the state in line with the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009.
Nationally, the Paycheck Fairness Act was recently defeated in the Senate for the third time. Nevertheless, the ACLU helped persuade the President to issue an executive order banning retaliation against employees of federal contractors for disclosing or inquiring about their wages.
This executive order is no substitute for the Paycheck Fairness Act, but it will help encourage compliance with existing equal pay laws.
On October 9, 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging several abortion-related amendments inserted into the massive 2013 state budget bill (HB 59).
One of the amendments in question bans public hospitals from making transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Another requires clinics to follow a government script when dealing with patients and to present those patients with evidence of a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion or face criminal charges. A third amendment creates a new state “parenting and pregnancy” program that siphons state money directly to private organizations that are forbidden from mentioning abortion services.
These amendments have no place in a state budget bill. In fact, they violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject rule,” which mandates that legislation deal with only one issue, the appropriation of funds for existing government programs or obligations.
The abortion debate will no doubt continue, but allowing the legislature to violate the constitution in order to get what they want ultimately hurts us all.
That’s why this litigation is about reproductive justice and good government. You don’t have to be pro-choice to understand that the business of the legislature should be conducted above board and in the full light of day.
The Ohio General Assembly has passed two bills that further curtail Ohio women’s reproductive rights, including a ban on abortions after 24 weeks and a ban on abortions performed in public hospitals. Other bills, including the “Heartbeat Bill,” are pending.