Abortion bill raises tension on campus

YSU Planned Parenthood Generation Action members Rose McClurkin (left) and Bella Vass-Gal (right) hosted a table providing resources and information regarding current reproductive rights and services available in Ohio.

By C. Aileen Blaine

The debate between anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates is still an ongoing discourse at Youngstown State University.

Early last week, members of the new student group Penguins for Life wrote chalk messages across campus in support of fetal right to life. The writings included messages such as “Save the unborn babies” and “Unborn life matters.”

The messages weren’t well received by many campus community members. Within several days, much of the chalk was smeared or washed away. Other opponents wrote their own messages beside the originals in protest. 

Kayla Gilmore, senior performance major and president of Penguins for Life, said she believes that women deserve better than to be told that abortion is their only option. 

“We want to show women that they are strong enough and that we are here to support them,” Gilmore said. “Our goals are to support pregnant and parenting students on campus and local mothers in need in the community while also speaking up about the injustice of abortion.”

Political science sophomore Rose McClurkin is the president of YSU’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action organization. The group is in a partnership with Advocates for Youth, a program asking public universities and colleges to include abortion services in their health insurance plans. YSU does not.

“We want to make it safe, accepted and comprehensible for people to access these essential services,” McClurkin said. “We’re doing our work here … just making sure that people know that it’s still safe and legal in Ohio to get an abortion, and doing that work to maintain the access.” 

Bella Vass-Gal, sophomore history major and member of PPGA, said she wants to support reproductive freedom.

“Women and all people should be able to make their own decisions about their own bodies,” she said. “Health care should be provided to everybody, regardless of gender.”

Tension over abortion rights is mounting across the state as Senate Bill 123 — one of the strictest abortion laws thusfar — is moving through the Ohio Senate. Proposed Jan. 1, 2021, the bill will make it increasingly difficult for Ohio residents to obtain abortions beyond a set length of the gestation period. Also known as the Human Life Protection Act, it reached the Ohio Senate Health Committee on Sept. 28. 

Aileen Day, communications director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said the increasing restrictions are only making it more difficult for Ohioans to access abortion services, particularly at Planned Parenthood centers. Since 2011, Ohio Republicans have pushed 30 reproductive health care restrictions and bans through the Ohio statehouse to become law. 

“These laws have stripped funding for our health centers, made the services we provide more expensive [and] pushed reproductive health care services out of reach for Ohioans, including abortion,” Day said.

SB 123 would allow few exceptions for individuals seeking abortions. It doesn’t allow exceptions for the mother’s mental health, stating that, “No abortion shall be considered necessary … on the basis of a claim or diagnosis that the pregnant woman will engage in conduct that would result in the pregnant woman’s death or a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, or based on any reason related to the woman’s mental health.”

The Ohio bill also requires that clinics have the medical means to care for and “take all reasonable steps necessary to preserve the life and health of the unborn child immediately upon the child’s complete expulsion or extraction from the pregnant woman.” 

On Nov. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments regarding the Texas abortion law. Starting Dec. 1, the Supreme Court will review the Center for Reproductive Rights’ challenge to the Mississippi law regarding the landmark Roe v. Wade case. If the court decides to uphold the ban on abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, Ohio may follow the trend of banning abortions within the state in what’s known as a “trigger bill.” 

“People across Ohio need access to abortion, and testifying against this dangerous bill is one way to show our opposition,” Day said. “Everyone’s voice needs to be heard, no matter your story or personal connection to abortion. Everyone should have the freedom and power to control their own body, decisions and lives.”

For more information on available resources, visit the Youngstown Planned Parenthood Health Center’s website.