COLUMBUS-- Local activist Emily Rutherford has fought to ensure women in central Ohio have access to family planning options for 21 years.
She founded statewide abortion fund Women Have Options in 1992 to make abortions available to women of all backgrounds. She is also the co-founder of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, a nonprofit aimed at providing financial support for progressive women’s causes.
“Emily Rutherford is a part of the bedrock of social justice here in Ohio,” WHO Board President Nancy Pitts said, introducing her mentor. “She has founded two of the most well-known women’s organizations in central Ohio and statewide.”
For her lasting contributions to central Ohio women and their families, Rutherford was honored Wednesday at “Looking back, moving forward: 40 years of Roe,” an event sponsored by the Freedom of Choice Coalition Ohio and the National Council on Jewish Women, Columbus Section. The 90-minute gathering drew more than 200 women from across the state to the Gateway Theater Center, 1550 N. High St.
“I am very proud of the work Women Have Options has accomplished,” Rutherford said during her acceptance of the honor. “Thousands of women have been served. We’ve been able to support the clinic staff and doctors who work every day to support women’s needs.”
Since June 2011, Ohio politicians have proposed legislation to restrict abortion access and cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
The Heartbeat Bill seeks to limit abortions to five or six weeks into pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Under federal guidelines established with Roe v. Wade, a woman may terminate a pregnancy until 22 to 24 weeks, when a fetus is considered viable. The bill has stalled in the Senate with many anti-abortion advocates opposing it because of potential legal appeal.
In 2012, the Ohio Senate proposed a bill to cut up to $1.7 million in funding to the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates because they provide abortion services. Ohio has 32 Planned Parenthood clinics and three—one in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus—offer abortions. The women’s healthcare provider currently receives about $24 million in funding from the federal and state governments.
Both bills were shelved in November and will be addressed during this legislative session under new Senate leadership.
“More and more women truly have difficulty maintaining control over their reproductive rights,” Pitts said.
Pitts praised Rutherford for encouraging women of all ages and backgrounds to take part in securing women’s reproductive rights. She cited the diverse ages—from 22 to 79—of WHO’s board members as evidence.
As she presented the award to Rutherford, Pitts made one last comment:
“My wish is that all [abortion and reproductive rights organizations] would have a leader like Emily.”
Jessica J. Burchard can be reached via email at email@example.com.