Hundreds gathered for the 'We Won't Go Back' rally at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday to protest the reintroduced "heartbeat" bill and House Bill 59, the state budget bill that redirects funds from Planned Parenthood to faith-based pregnancy crisis centers, suspends funding for rape crisis centers that advise patients on abortion, and requires women seeking an abortion to undergo a trans-abdominal ultrasound.
Among the dozens of pro-choice organizations at the protest were the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which has advocated for the empowerment of women and girls for over 130 years, and the Ohio Reproductive Justice Task Force, formed this year on Facebook by young people.
"We're probably the oldest continuing women's organization," said Karen Rainey, public policy advocate for AAUW of Ohio. "The emphasis on advocacy has picked up in the last decade," she said.
Rainey sees reproductive rights as essential to women's empowerment. "Women have to have control over their own bodies. Women are not breeders. They need to be able to make decisions about their families and about their personal lives," she said.
"One of the things that we emphasize is prevention," Rainey said. "It's not just being able to have the right to an abortion if one is needed. No one likes abortion. But people find themselves in situations where giving birth is not the best thing for them to do, either for their bodies or for their family health.
Research indicates that about half of pregnancies are unintended, Rainey said. "We'd like to see a reduction in the need for abortions in the first place. We're trying to find common ground with the radical right about what needs to happen. We would think that we'd have common ground and could work together. We want to improve contraception access and sex education. Those are the things that make a difference for women.
"We've had bills introduced in the last several sessions of the legislature, that simply haven't been enacted, that would have been preventive measures," Rainey said. "We need to work more on that." Rainey's testimony on the heartbeat bill and other legislation is available here.
Emily Shaw of the Ohio Reproductive Justice Task Force shared her personal experiences with preventive reproductive health care from the podium. "I hope you leave here with the courage to talk to other people about your stories," she said. "I hope you tell your stories about abortion or about rape.
"I hope you get angry that the politicians in the building behind me want to do away with women's health services in Ohio," Shaw said. "And I hope your anger catalyzes into action. Women and the men who love us have to get angry about this. We have to be unafraid of being angry, and be able to harness the power if we're ever going to be able to reclaim our bodies, our lives, and our right to choose what to do with both."