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Bill Targets Pregnancy Prevention in Ohio

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August 4, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Reproductive rights have been a hot issue in Ohio, with several bills introduced in the state Legislature this year which would limit women's access to abortion and contraceptive services. One proposed law, however, is taking a different approach, by offering provisions that encourage prevention and protecting the rights of rape victims.

The Ohio Prevention First Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, has yet to receive much attention. Unlike controversial bans on abortion, Antonio says, this bill uses prevention as an important strategy to reduce unintended pregnancies.

"If we really want to get the root of the issue of unintended pregnancies, then that's to set up opportunities to prevent through education, so women are not dealing with unintended pregnancies to begin with."

The bill includes several provisions, including the creation of a teen-pregnancy prevention task force, implementing comprehensive reproductive-health education in schools, preventing pharmacies from refusing to dispense federal Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription contraception, and giving sexual-assault victims information and access to emergency contraception. Opponents argue that the bill violates the right of health-care providers to act as their conscience dictates; supporters say it's about protecting the health of women.

The Ohio Prevention First Act has been introduced in the past. This time, supporters such as Gary Dougherty, state legislative director for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio, hope the Legislature can focus on the need to prevent unintended pregnancies rather than divisive issues.

"Abortion bans and head-in-the-sand approaches don't work. What works is education and information."

During this session, state House lawmakers have approved bills that prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected, ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks, and restrict insurance coverage for abortions.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH