By Julie Carr Smyth
AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Democrats seeking statewide office this fall on Wednesday coupled criticism of Republican-backed abortion restrictions with a pledge to make women’s health issues a priority in the 2014 campaign.
The party’s full 2014 slate appeared together for the first time to accept endorsements from Planned Parenthood.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, said GOP Gov. John Kasich campaigned almost exclusively on economic issues yet has supported a series of abortion-related restrictions.
“So we should have been able to anticipate that his administration would be almost entirely focused on economic development and creating jobs for people in Ohio,” he said. “What we’ve gotten is a series of extreme proposals, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with economic development.”
Republican Chairman Matt Borges called the timing of the Democrats’ event on the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade case legalizing abortion “beyond the pale.” The anniversary was marked by events on both sides of the issue.
Ohio’s Republican-controlled state Legislature sent Kasich a series of abortion-related measures last year.
One prohibited public hospitals from striking patient transfer agreements with abortion clinics, though such agreements are required under law. The new restriction has led to one clinic’s license revocation and the voluntary closure of two other facilities that relied on public hospital pacts.
Lawmakers also passed funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and abortion-related restrictions on counselors at taxpayer-funded rape crisis centers.
An informed consent provision requires abortion providers to inform pregnant women in writing about the presence of a fetal heartbeat before the procedure and share the statistical probability of bringing the fetus to term.
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s leading anti-abortion group, said Democrats were using Planned Parenthood’s backing to generate campaign donations from abortion-rights proponents while Republicans have been defending Ohioans’ widely held opposition to abortion.
The group’s president, Mike Gonidakis, praised the Legislature for its actions.
“It is a tragedy that these Democrats whistle past the graveyard and ignore the fact that 42 percent of all Ohio abortions are performed on African-American women yet they comprise only 8 percent of our state’s population,” he said in a statement. “Instead of offering assistance and solutions for African-American women, FitzGerald and company continue to bow at the abortion altar for a campaign contribution.”
State Sen. Nina Turner, a candidate for secretary of state, said women’s access to health care is important to the well-being of Ohio’s families and economy.
Turner, a Cleveland Democrat who is black, criticized Republicans for advancing policies that aren’t respectful of women in Ohio.
“Women do not need permission slips from government. They certainly don’t need any more executive or legislative daddies to tell us what is in our best interests,” she said.
Democratic state Rep. John Patrick Carney, running for state auditor, said laws restricting medical care are putting government between women and their physicians and driving doctors out of the state.
“The legislation that we’ve seen in the Legislature, signed into law by Gov. Kasich, has the uniform opposition of the health care community,” he said.
Gonidakis said Republicans are providing practical, humane alternatives to abortion, including legislation that lowers the costs of adoption, reduces red tape and streamlines the adoption process.