In 2019, I moved to Columbus from Arizona four days after Senate Bill 23 was introduced in late February.
Before I had even gotten to unpack the last of my items, the bill, which was dubbed by anti-choice groups as the “Heartbeat Bill”, was signed into law in early April. It followed in the quick and fast footsteps of similar heartbeat bills that were introduced and passed in Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri.
Being born and raised in the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area, I was lucky enough to never have to deal with restrictive laws that ultimately decided what would happen with my body when it comes to reproductive health. But now I officially lived in a state that was making headlines all across the world for passing an incredibly egregious law that not only restricted abortions to a nearly impossible time frame, but essentially was outlined in a way that it ultimately was a near-total abortion ban.
My friends and family all across the nation (and the world) would ask me what was going on in the state, constantly referring to Ohio as “crazy territory where women had no rights and couldn’t get abortions.” I, like so many other Ohioans, shrugged my shoulders, praying and hoping that the law would be overturned or news would break that it was all a sham. But the news never came to me. My social media timelines were stark silent after they had so frequently been inundated with news of all the bans being signed into law.
It wasn’t until I started working at the ACLU of Ohio four months later that I realized that despite this bill being signed into law, abortion is still legal in Ohio.
And actually, it’s still legal in EVERY state that the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” was passed in.
In particular for Ohio, before DeWine’s signature could even dry on SB 23, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood, and Preterm-Cleveland were already gearing up to take the state to court. And we did just that – on May 15th, we filed a lawsuit challenging this near-total ban. Due to this, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect in early July. Since then, we’ve filed a motion for permanent injunction on the ban, so again I reiterate, abortion is still legal in Ohio.
Here’s the thing – while media outlets from all over covered the insanity that ensued when the bill was introduced and subsequently signed into law, the same attention was not given to the trajectory of the law afterwards due to a myriad of reasons. And because of that, there is a common belief that the law is effective – when it simply is not. The fact that there is utter confusion around the legality of abortion in Ohio has been confirmed by Preterm staff, who have stated that clinics in West Virginia have reported an increase of Ohio residents seeking abortion in their state due to the rampant misinformation.
Let that sink in.
Individuals are crossing state lines into West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana in order to obtain abortions that they have access to in their very own state – and likely their own city! And this isn’t even taking into account of the individuals across the state who are carrying out pregnancies under the misunderstanding that they cannot get an abortion in Ohio and do not have the means to travel out of state in order to get one.
And this is exactly why we recently took to the highways and streets with ten massive billboards positioned all across the state with a very simple message: abortion is still legal in Ohio.
Because it is.
It’s a fact.
These billboards aren’t an attempt to troll anyone or a subtle move to agitate abortion proponents
They are to let people know the truth.
And every Ohioan deserves to know the truth.
Which is, simply put, that despite the “Heartbeat Bill” being signed into law last year – and another, even more outrageous bill being introduced – abortion is still legal in Ohio.