Disability Rights Press Release

05.05.15

Ohio House Bill Would Mislead People with Disabilities and Guardians on their Rights, Says ACLU

Voting Rights, Religious Freedom and Access to Reproductive Healthcare Missing in Ward’s Bill of Rights

(COLUMBUS) —The full Ohio House may vote soon on House Bill 50, new legislation that enumerates a ward’s bill of rights. The American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to reject the bill and consider additional amendments as the current version omits and misleads wards and their guardians about their rights.

The ward’s bill of rights enumerates several rights, including the right to mental health services, to safe and sanitary living conditions, to marry, to due process, and to drive, among others. Missing from the proposed legislation is the right to vote and the right to privacy, which were in a previous version of the bill. Similarly, legislators did not include such basic rights as the right to practice the religion of their own choice or none at all. Most recently, the legislation was amended to instruct wards and guardians that they do not have the right to abortion care, which contradicts the law.

“By sins of omission or outright misdirection, legislators will be providing perhaps the most vulnerable Ohioans with inadequate information about their rights. This is simply wrong,” said Gary Daniels, ACLU of Ohio chief lobbyist. “In order for the guardianship system to work properly, both wards and guardians need to be equipped with the best information possible to protect their rights. State legislators should be honest about these peoples’ rights rather than allowing incomplete or wrong information to be spread because of pressure from special interests.”

The ACLU of Ohio and other disability rights advocates have expressed concerns about H.B. 50, but these provisions have not been addressed. H.B. 50 may be voted on by the House Finance Committee today and is expected to be voted on by the full Ohio House.