On Oct. 2, more than 1,000 people came to the Columbus, Ohio, State House to demand legal abortion now, an end to the war on the right to choose, and access to safe, accessible and affordable reproductive care. The action was organized by the Women’s March, with participation from the Democratic Socialists of America, Planned Parenthood and others.
Ohio recently introduced an anti-abortion bill (Senate Bill 123) that bans abortions outright, even in the cases of rape and incest. This “trigger bill” would also criminalize the so-called “promotion of abortions” as well as charging “abortion manslaughter” to any physician performing the procedure. It would go into effect the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned on the national level.
Ohio currently has one of the most anti-choice governments in the nation, as the Senate, House and Governor are all are overwhelmingly against choice. In the Ohio Revised Code Section 2919.195, abortions in Ohio are banned after a fetal heartbeat is detected — although this has not been enforced due to legal challenges.
Protecting the health of women and LGBTQ+ people
The people of Columbus showed up to let the reactionaries know that they won’t stand by and let these anti-choice bills dictate Ohioan’s lives, and that they will fight to protect the health of women and LGBTQ+ people in reproductive healthcare.
Counter-protestors with large graphic signs met the demonstrators on the ground, and mingled and chatted with the police. However, they were largely ignored as the masses of people chanted and cheered for a person’s right to choose. Demonstrators held signs including “Abortion bans are class warfare,” and “If you cut off my reproductive rights can I cut off yours?” and chanted slogans such as “What do we do when we’re under attack? Stand up fight back!”
Columbus was ready to stand up, and fight back. As the organizers took to the state house stairs, they announced there would be speakers, a short march and then a voter registration drive. Allison Russo, a Democrat from House District 24 who is up for election this year, spoke first on the assault on reproductive rights, and how she believed the problem is “radical politics, voter suppression and gerrymandering.” She finished her speech by plugging her campaign.
While anti-choice politicians certainly should be voted out, unfortunately, time and time again throughout the event participants were told that voting alone would change everything. This reinforces the broken system in place, as the vote is often presented as the alternative to what really brings about change — organizing and mobilizing the masses of people for justice in regard to reproductive rights and in the broader movement for self-determination, human rights and socialism.
A Christian reverend gave a land acknowledgment and prayer to the Indigenous nations whose land we occupy.
The march was met with beeping from car horns and cheers from others in solidarity. It concluded back at the statehouse. Unfortunately, no more than ten percent of the original crowd was left at that point to hear from a few remaining remarkable speakers. One community member spoke about the struggle for reproductive rights as an Indigenous woman, and another spoke about the fight against human trafficking around Columbus, with its epicenter in the working-class neighborhood of the Hilltop. A socialist spoke about how this fight takes more than voting, and how Roe v. Wade was originally won by the militant women’s and LGBTQ+ liberation movements of the 1960s. A trans organizer emphasized that this issue does not just affect cisgender women; it affects everyone who has a uterus- be they women, trans men, nonbinary, gender non-conforming or other.
Matthew Meyer of PSL Chicago, who attended the march, told Liberation News, “The Supreme Court’s inaction on Texas’ SB8 has once again shown us that an unelected body of the ruling class cannot be relied upon to protect our fundamental rights. We are here to demand safe and affordable reproductive healthcare for all via the Women’s Health Protection Act. This legislation would federally codify the right to have a legal abortion, finally removing this key piece of leverage the Democratic Party continuously uses to coerce U.S. citizens to vote for them against their own interests.”
Despite limitations, the mobilization of Columbus progressives was resounding, and incredibly important for the fight for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.
The fight for reproductive rights isn’t the only fight Ohioans face. The fight against SB 123 must be connected to the recent Ohio state funding bill that allows medical service providers to turn away LGBTQ+ people for “religious reasons.” The fight for bodily self-determination must be connected to the self-determination of Black and Indigenous people. The struggle against the patriarchy must be connected to the struggle to end racism and police brutality, which Columbus saw in the police killings of Casey Goodson Jr. and Ma’Khia Bryant. Every one of our struggles is connected to our collective struggle for human rights, liberation and socialism.
Feature photo. Abortion rights demonstrators and counter-protesters gather outside the Columbus, Ohio, State House. Liberation photo.