Supporters of legal abortion rally at the Ohio Statehouse

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Supporters of legal abortion rallied in Columbus, outside the Ohio Statehouse, Saturday — joining advocates that gathered in other cities all around the state and country.

The west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse was full of women, and some men, who carried signs with messages blasting abortion bans and yelled chants like “abortion rights are human rights.”

“I believe in pro-choice and I don’t like what’s happening in America right now — not giving girls and women a fair shot and making their own decision about what they want to do with their body because we should all be taking care of each other,” Tobi Furman of Columbus.

Maureen Reedy, of Columbus, agreed “Women deserve to make our own decisions about our bodies and the laws need to keep their bans off our bodies and off our health care.”

The rallies were hosted by Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organization, and advertised with the slogan, “Bans off our bodies.”

Similar protests were held in Cincinnati and Cleveland over the weekend. More rallies are planned in the weeks to come, leading up to the expected U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Mississippi case.

A draft opinion leaked in early May indicated the new conservative majority of justices on the court might rule in a way that overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

Ohio is one of about 22 states that could almost immediately ban abortion using laws on the books or legislation pending in the state legislature.

Advocates for legal abortion said if Ohio outlaws the procedure, women will have to go to neighboring states to obtain a legal and safe abortion.

Dr. Catherine Romanos, who has a family practice in Columbus, said one in four women during their reproductive age will need access to abortion. She said banning abortion will not stop it, but will instead make it less safe because women will still seek options that would prevent them from being required to carry to term a pregnancy for which they are not physically, mentally or emotionally ready to handle.

“People die in childbirth. People are severely injured in childbirth. We have a horrible maternal mortality crisis in this country and in Ohio specifically and so women will die,” Romanos said.

Dr. Erika Boothman, an OB-GYN in Columbus, said Ohio needs to follow the science.

“As a physician, it is my job to follow evidence-based medicine and health care and all of the data shows it’s important for women to have access to reproductive rights and a full scope of reproductive rights includes abortion,” Boothman said.

Protestors carry homemade signs at abortions rights rally at the Ohio Statehouse on May 14, 2022

A Lutheran minister, Al Debelak, has worked as a clinic escort at abortion facilities in central Ohio for the past few years. He said he and other clinic escorts were on hand at this rally to make sure people protesting were safe.

“We are not going to intervene or tackle anybody but just making people sure they are aware of people who have these GoPro’s on and they film them then use it for their PR stuff,” Debelak said.

Lexie Hall of Columbus was one of the people Debelak was talking about. She was part of a small number of abortion opponents who showed up, carrying large signs and wearing GoPro cameras around their necks, recording everything that was happening during the event.

“Every human being has value and I believe we should all be protected under the law,” Hall said.

Hall said she was part of a group called Created Equal. She said she believed a non-viable fetus deserved the same legal protection as a viable fetus or infant. Hall and others engaged with the crowd, talking to them about why they opposed abortion. Many abortion rights protestors held up their own signs to try to cover the large signs being held by those who oppose abortion.

Both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate are considering bills known as “trigger bans” that would make abortion illegal as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court would allow states to do so. Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, is looking into whether the state could immediately resurrect the so-called “heartbeat law.” That law, which was put on hold by a federal court, bans abortion at the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks into a pregnancy before many women even know they are pregnant.

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