A day before early voting was to begin in Ohio, a 5-4 split court stops lower court rulings from going into effect that allowed for more extensive early voting in the Buckeye state.
WASHINGTON — A day before early voting was due to begin in Ohio, the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, stopped it before it began.
Although early voting will still happen in Ohio, the state’s NAACP had sued to stop a new state law and an associated order from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted that restrict early voting in the state from going into effect.
The group won at the trial court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, but, on Monday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of this past week’s order from the 6th Circuit — putting the new rules back into effect.
The court’s more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan — would have denied the state’s request for a stay.
Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed News
Breaking news on James Traficant:
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a trial court judge’s order blocking Ohio’s restrictions on early voting. A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed the preliminary injunction granted earlier this month by Judge Peter C. Economus, meaning that the cutbacks cannot go into effect until the case is resolved on the merits by the courts. The circuit judges agreed that the restrictions run afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The law, enacted earlier this year, scaled back early voting in the Buckeye State from 35 days to 28 days and scrapped “Golden Week,” when residents could both register and vote in the same week.
From here the state of Ohio can either seek a full court — en banc — ruling at the 6th Circuit or appeal to the Supreme Court.
"With the press of time, it is not clear that Ohio is going to bother to try to change this for this election," wrote election law professor Rick Hasen of UC-Irvine. “But if and when this case gets to the Supreme Court, I expect 5 Justices could well adopt a much narrower definition of equal protection and the Voting Rights Act than offered here.”
If Judge Peter Economus’ reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.
Ohio’s attempt to reduce the number of days voters may cast an early ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), according to a decision handed down Thursday by a federal court in that state. Though the decision has a difficult road to travel before Ohio voters can be certain that it will stand — it will appeal to the Sixth Circuit, which has a conservative majority, and ultimately to the same Supreme Court that struck down a key provision of the VRA — Judge Peter Economus’ decision may be the strongest voting rights decision handed down since the justices’ attack on the VRA. Or, at least, it may be the strongest decision in the sense that it calls for a very strong shield to be erected around the right to vote. If his reasoning is ultimately upheld by a higher court, that would be a serious blow to efforts by many state lawmakers to enact laws restricting the franchise.
Much of Judge Economus’ opinion is devoted to explaining how limits on early voting disproportionately impact African-American voters. Many black churches, for example, conduct “Souls to the Polls” events that encourage churchgoers to vote after attending Sunday services — as an Ohio NAACP leader explained, “Sunday was a focal point also because many churches already provide transportation to take people to church, and carpools are also arranged so that everyone is together” — yet the new restrictions on early voting limit these churchgoers’ opportunities to vote on Sunday. Additionally, the new early voting schedule eliminates “Golden Week,” a period when voters can register and vote on the same day. The same NAACP leader testified that African-Americans are especially likely to take advantage of this period because “people in the African-American community in [his community] move frequently, especially since the 2008 recession.”
Empirical data also demonstrates that black voters are more likely to take advantage of early voting. Indeed, according to University of Florida Research Professor Daniel Smith, an expert witness who testified in this case, the rate of early voting in areas that are entirely African-American is more than twice the rate in areas that are entirely white. Additionally, Smith explained that “there is strong empirical evidence in Ohio that a greater proportion of blacks not only cast [early] ballots than whites but do so on early voting days that have been eliminated by” the new voting schedule.
This data matters because, under one of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that was not struck down by the Roberts Court, “[n]o voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Moreover, as a precedent cited by Judge Economus explains, this provision of the VRA “does not require proof of discriminatory intent. Instead, a plaintiff need show only that the challenged action or requirement has a discriminatory effect on members of a protected group[.]”
The VRA prohibits laws that abridges black people’s right to vote. Restricting early voting abridges black people’s right to vote. Therefore it violates the VRA. Q.E.D.
Yet, while this is the strongest argument presented by Economus’ opinion, that doesn’t mean that it will be upheld on appeal. For one thing, as Sean Trende, a political analyst for the news site Real Clear Politics explained in expert testimony on behalf of the state, “’Ohio maintains one of the most expansive systems of early voting in the country,’ with an early-voting period twice the national median.” Though reducing the number of early voting days in Ohio reduces the opportunities for African-Americans to vote from its previous baseline, it is far from guaranteed that a Supreme Court which has been hostile to the Voting Rights Act in the recent past will hold that Ohio is required to maintain its prior baseline.
Indeed, just last month a George W. Bush-appointed judge in North Carolina refused to suspend cuts to early voting in that state, arguing that it was “speculative” to assume that black voters will not shift their voting patterns to other days when voting is allowed. This argument could resonate with a conservative Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, it this decision stands it will be a very important victory for voting rights. Among other things, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted in a press conference Thursday afternoon, Economus’ decision uses some of the “same legal reasoning that underlies the Department’s pending challenges to voting measures” to states like Texas and North Carolina, where lawmakers and state officials are aggressively taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down much of the VRA.
Source: Ian Millhiser for ThinkProgress
Marriage Equality Litigation At The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals: An Eventful Few Days For Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee
On this Wednesday, August 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will review same-sex marriage cases from each of the four states in its geographic area – Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. A panel of three judges in Cincinnati will hear the landmark cases from the four states.
April DeBoer and her family, at the center of one of the cases from Michigan, will be participating in a couple of events before heading down to Cincinnati for Wednesday’s hearing. DeBoer and her partner of fourteen years, Jayne Rowse originally challenged Michigan’s same-sex marriageban in 2012 for the right to jointly adopt their children. Tuesday evening two simultaneous interfaith rallies will take place in Warren and Lansing, Michigan. Faith leaders from many congregations, including Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Jewish, American Baptist and more will give their blessings to all families. “From a faith perspective, marriage equality is about recognizing lifelong love and commitment within the full diversity of human experience,” said Reverend Mike Cooper, Inclusive Justice Board Member and Associate Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Lansing.
Tennessee is already preparing to welcome marriage equality into the state. The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation is touring around the state through the month of August to make sure everyone is ready for the first days of marriage equality. The group is putting on information sessions for same-sex couples who would like to get married, allies who are interested in volunteering to help with safety and logistics, and clergy and elected officials who want to solemnize marriages.
On the eve of the hearing in Cincinnati, the Rally for Marriage will bring together people from all four states to cheer on marriage equality and build excitement for Wednesday’s events. According to Why Marriage Matters Ohio, this will be the largest marriage equality rally Ohio has ever seen, with attendees being encouraged to wear red in support of marriage equality. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is among the featured speakers, along with April DeBoer and her family.
And on the day of the hearing, there will be a March for Marriage Equality in front of the Cincinnati Federal Court House while the hearing takes place.
Wednesday will be a momentous day for individuals and families in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Attend one of the events in your area and be on the lookout for more news after Wednesday! And visit www.glaad.org/marriage for the latest marriage equality news.
BREAKING: The GOP has selected Cleveland, Ohio for the site of #RNC2016.
The RNC’s coming to Cleveland in 2016. Cue up The Drew Carey Show's theme song Cleveland Rocks!
NEW: Republican National Committee picks Cleveland as 2016 RNC Convention host. @NBCPolitics— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 8, 2014
MORE: The full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month: http://t.co/aO7Rk3lsUu— The Associated Press (@AP) July 8, 2014
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who leads the DNC, said it had received proposals from Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland; New York; Philadelphia and Phoenix. Wasserman Schultz said the committee had “fantastic options” and a group of DNC officials will evaluate the cities and make
site visits as the committee considers its options.
The contenders include large cities familiar with holding major conventions and potential out-of-the-box picks.
New York’s proposal would stage the convention in Brooklyn, the home of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and a liberal stronghold. The New York bid creates the possibility that Clinton, the former secretary of state and the leading Democratic contender for president, could claim the party’s nomination in the state she once represented in the Senate.
New York officials have said they would hold the convention at the Barclays Center, the new home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
With two cities in the mix, Ohio Democratic officials have pushed to hold the convention in their state, which remains among the nation’s most pre-eminent presidential battleground states.
Phoenix would give Democrats a way to connect with voters in Arizona, long eyed by the party as a potential swing state. Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to carry Arizona in a presidential election in 1996 but before that, Democrats had lost every presidential race in that state since Harry Truman in 1948.
Philadelphia was the site of the 2000 Republican convention, where George W. Bush was first nominated, and would allow Democrats to hold its event in the city where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution was adopted.
Birmingham represented a surprise bid and would bring Democrats into a reliably Republican state. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Alabama was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Fifteen cities were invited to submit bids but several deciding not to seek the convention, including Atlanta, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Florida, and Chicago, the home of President Barack Obama.
Many factors determine the selection, most notably whether the city has the facilities to stage the pageantry and whether there are enough hotels to house the delegates and media descending on the region.
Republicans are considering four cities for its 2016 convention: Dallas, Denver, Cleveland and Kansas City, Missouri.
h/t: Ken Thomas at TPM
The ACLU, along with the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the state’s new restrictions on early voting.
The ACLU, along with the Ohio chapter of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit on Thursday challenging the state’s new restrictions on early voting. Given the timing, it seems plausible that the suit seeks to block Ohio’s cuts to early voting in time for November’s midterm elections.
Target No. 1 of the suit is Ohio Senate Bill 238, a new 2014 law that eliminated Ohio’s so-called “Golden Week,” of early voting, when voters in the state could previously register to vote and cast a vote at the same time. And there’s another provision challenged in the suit: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision to eliminate Sunday voting, voting hours on the Monday before the election, and evening voting hours, in the name of having more “uniform” voting times across the state.Since minority communities are more likely to take advantage of early and evening voting periods, the suit argues, the new round of restrictions violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The ACLU explained the complaint in a statement:
In the 2012 election, more than 157,000 Ohioans voted on the days that have now been cut. A disproportionately high percentage of those are low-income voters, many of whom are also African American. Lower-income voters tend to rely on evening and Sunday voting because they cannot take paid time off of work to vote during regular business hours. Single parents need these hours because it’s the only time they can find friends or family who can provide child care. People experiencing homelessness or severe transience rely on the opportunity to register and vote at the same time during the first week of early voting. And among the African-American church community, Sunday voting has become an important cultural tradition.
Sound familiar? It should. Ohio is hardly the first state to eliminate voting hours disproportionately used by minority and low income voters. Wisconsin’s governor just signed a new law that basically means the state only has early voting hours when everyone is at work. These new restrictions are the opposite of what a recent report from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration said states should be doing to ensure that all voters are able to get to the polls. That commission urged states to expand, not eliminate, early voting opportunities. Ohio has tried at least twice since 2011 to eliminate portions of the “Golden Week” voting period. Both times, the state has been forced to reinstate those hours, the ACLU explains.
Overall, the new restrictions on early voting hours nationwide come from Republican-controlled legislatures, justified by the argument that the uniform hours will combat voter fraud. But many, including a federal judge this week, have questioned whether that concern really warrants sweeping restrictions on when and how American citizens can vote. In a decision against Wisconsin’s Voter ID laws, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote that ”a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud,” given the current strict punishments on the books for the crime.
Source: Abby Ohlheiser for The Wire
CINCINNATI — A federal judge has put on hold the majority of what attorneys have called a “momentous” change to Ohio’s gay marriage law.
CINCINNATI — Ohio officials must immediately recognize the same-sex marriages of four couples who sued over the state’s gay marriage ban, a federal judge said Wednesday, while staying the broader effects of his ruling to avoid “premature celebration and confusion” in case it’s overturned on appeal.
Judge Timothy Black stayed his ruling ordering Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed in other states pending appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals process likely will take months.
Had Black not issued the stay, all married gay couples living in Ohio would have been able to immediately begin obtaining the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for each other.
Black said the stay does not apply to the four couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case, and ordered Ohio to immediately list both spouses in each relationship as parents on their children’s birth certificates.
Liz Wilson and her wife are among those who will have to wait for the appeal to play out.
“It’s frustrating,” said the 44-year-old Cleveland woman, who married her wife in New York last year. “At the end of the day you just want your family to be safe and secure.”
In explaining the stay, Black said that although he doesn’t think the state’s appeal will succeed, there is still a chance the 6th Circuit could overturn his decision.
“The court recognizes that recognition of same-sex marriages is a hotly contested issue in the contemporary legal landscape, and, if (the) appeal is ultimately successful, the absence of a stay … is likely to lead to confusion, potential inequity and high costs,” Black said. “Premature celebration and confusion do not serve anyone’s best interests.”
In a court filing arguing for a stay, attorneys for the state did not contest Black’s stated inclination to allow the four couples to both be listed on their children’s birth certificates.
“We’re happy that the judge agreed to the stay,” said Rob Nichols, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman. He declined to comment further.
Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati civil rights attorney who represents the four couples in the lawsuit and argued against a stay of any kind, said in a statement that “at least for these four couples, the Constitution stands on the side of love.”
“The implementation of same-sex marriage recognition has started and we are all very excited,” he said. “We will try and expedite the appeals process so full marriage recognition for all same-sex couples does not trail too far behind.”
Three of the four couples who filed the lawsuit live in the Cincinnati area. One spouse in each relationship is pregnant and due to give birth this summer. The fourth couple lives in New York City but adopted a child from Ohio.
In Monday’s ruling, Black said the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and “unenforceable in all circumstances.”
“The record before this court … is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state’s ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Black wrote.
Including Black, eight federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision last June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law. All but one of those rulings has been stayed pending appeal.
Although Black’s order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state, Gerhardstein said he was planning to file a lawsuit in the next couple of weeks seeking such a ruling.
The case is Henry v. Wymyslo.
BREAKING: Federal judges grant out of state same-sex marriages to be recognized in Ohio. #OH4M
The broad part of the Ohio ruling on marriage recognition is stayed pending appeal: http://t.co/WSVFmSajBq— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) April 14, 2014
BREAKING: Federal judge plans to strike down Ohio’s constitutional ban on marriage equality. #OH4M #Ohio #MarriageEquality
Good news out of Ohio on marriage equality.
BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner:
The Ohio case at issue is a marriage recognition case, not a full marriage equality case, so there will not be a full marriage ruling.— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) April 4, 2014
YES, THERE IS ONE TOO RADICAL FOR THE GOP: The Abortion Restriction That’s Too Radical For Republicans
So-called “fetal heartbeat bills,” a radical proposal to cut off legal abortion services at just six weeks, are failing in states across the country.
Over the past several years, state legislatures have enacted a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions. That pace hasn’t abated during this year’s legislative sessions, as lawmakers are rushing to pass measures to shut down abortion clinics and create additional red tape for women seeking abortions. But even though the assault on reproductive rights has been steadily gaining ground, there’s one type of restriction that hasn’t been able to win enough support, even among some anti-choice Republicans.
So-called “fetal heartbeat bills,” a radical proposal to cut off legal abortion services at just six weeks — before many women even realize they’re pregnant — are failing in states across the country. Although the far-right abortion opponents who push six-week bans claim that the procedure should be outlawed after a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, they can’t always get their other colleagues to sign onto the effort.
Last year, North Dakota and Alabama became the first states in the country to pass abortion restrictions banning the procedure after the detection of fetal heartbeat (although Arkansas’ ended up being amended to a 12-week ban). Perhaps observing that those two laws have both been blocked from taking effect because they blatantly violate Roe v. Wade, at least five state legislatures have declined to advance fetal heartbeat bans so far this year:
ALABAMA: Lawmakers in Alabama introduced a package of several anti-abortion restrictions, including a six-week abortion ban, on the same day in February. The legislature rushed to approve two of those measures before the state’s session came to a close this week, but the Senate didn’t take up the heartbeat ban. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said he’s waiting to see how the legal challenges to six-week bans in other states before Alabama passes its own version “and spends dollars we don’t have as a state.” The lawmaker who introduced the bill said she’s “very, very disappointed” that the legislature “didn’t have the fortitude” to approve it anyway.
MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi has been trying and failing to enact a heartbeat ban for several years in a row. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has already indicated that he’s eager to sign one. “It would tell that mother, ‘Your child has a heartbeat,’” he told supporters at an anti-abortion event last year. But so far, this bill has repeatedly failed to make it out of committee. The state recently passed a 20-week abortion ban, but the heartbeat bill — which would have banned abortion at 12 weeks, like the one in Arkansas — remains a step too far.
KANSAS: Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas have decided to block a six-week abortion ban this year because they’re not interested in provoking a legal fight. Even though the legislature has strong GOP majorities, the politicians there are taking their cues from Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-choice group in the state. Kansans for Life doesn’t support the proposed fetal heartbeat ban because they’re nervous that a court battle would end up striking it down. “We’re just being cautious,” House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey (R) explained when asked why the legislature hasn’t scheduled a vote on the measure.
KENTUCKY: A fetal heartbeat measure was introduced again in Kentucky this session, after failing to advance last year, but abortion opponents haven’t had much luck this time around either. The measure is currently stalled in committee with little chance of passing. Pro-choice Kentucky lawmakers have been able to successfully block proposed abortion restrictions for several years in a row, so there’s little chance that a radical six-week abortion ban will make it through.
OHIO: Republicans in Ohio have long been divided over whether to adopt an aggressive anti-abortion strategy, and attempt to enact a harsh fetal heartbeat ban, or take a more subtle and incremental approach to chipping away at reproductive rights. This split has prevented the state from approving a six-week ban for the past several years, although it continues to be re-introduced. Senate President Keith Faber (R) says he won’t schedule a vote on the measure this session because he’s worried it will trigger a court challenge.
Indeed, legal battles over unconstitutional abortion restrictions come with a cost. North Dakota is gearing up to spend at least $600,000 to defend its stringent anti-abortion laws in court, while Kansas and Idaho have both accumulated legal fees in this area that top one million dollars.
In general, abortion opponents haven’t decided whether it’s better to continue gradually chipping away Roe v. Wade piece by piece, or whether it’s necessary to take a bold stance to ban nearly all abortions. So far, feuds over this divide are bubbling to the surface in political races in Georgia and Kentucky. And some Republicans will need to adopt a particularly hardline stance against abortion if they want to court support from thecountry’s major anti-choice groups before the upcoming presidential primaries.
But so far, anti-choice lawmakers have actually had more success with the first, incremental strategy. That’s largely because radical restrictions like six-week bans, which are obviously extreme on their face, tend to capture headlines and spark outrage — while more subtle efforts to undermine abortion rights are able to slip under the radar.
BREAKING: The shelter-in-place is still in effect at Kent State University. Below, a message from Kent State University at their Twitter @KentState
Advisory: April 2 - Kent Campus - Shot fired into ground near Bowman Hall. No injuries. Continue to shelter in place. http://www.kent.edu/advisory
Thanks to the high-profile battle over new abortion restrictions in Texas this past summer, the national media typically associates the Lone Star State with harsh abortion laws. The dire situation in Texas is certainly alarming for reproductive rights activists — but it’s hardly the only state where women’s access to abortion is under siege.
Ohio has recently dramatically tightened its restrictions on abortion, and the number of clinics in the state is dwindling. State lawmakers haven’t shown any signs of ceasing their politically-motivated attacks on reproductive health care. Yet unlike Texas, Ohio women’s fights haven’t garnered much widespread attention.
“Ohio is one of the most restrictive states in the U.S. when it comes to abortion care. Texas gets a lot of the press, but really, some of the laws that Texas is enacting are stolen from Ohio,” an abortion provider who practices in Ohio, speaking anonymously to protect her identity, told ThinkProgress in an interview earlier this month.
In 2011, Ohio enacted a ban on later abortions that prohibits doctors from ending a pregnancy after 20 weeks unless the fetus is nonviable. Since the new law doesn’t adequately distinguish between elective abortions and medically necessary abortions, that leaves some women who discover serious fetal abnormalities — which typically aren’t evident until later in pregnancy— in a difficult spot. They’re either forced to carry the doomed pregnancy to term, or doctors are forced to refer them out of state.
“Some of the only complaints I get from patients are when I have to turn them away. When I tell them, I’m sorry, I can’t help you, I know how to do the procedure and I could do it safely, but I can’t,” the anonymous Ohio provider told ThinkProgress. “It’s heartbreaking. People are begging you — as a physician, you know you can help them, but the only reason you can’t is because of a state law.”
On top of that, Ohio pushed through a package of stringent abortion restrictions this past summer by attaching them to an unrelated budget bill. The anti-choice groups in the state celebrated the passage of that legislation as “historic.” Some of the new restrictions are intended to dissuade women from ending a pregnancy, requiring their doctors to give them an opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat and tell them about the fetus’ likelihood of “surviving to full term.” Others are specifically aimed at abortion clinics, using a tactic known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) to indirectly undermine women’s access to the procedure.
Over-regulating abortion clinics is a popular anti-choice strategy, and Texas’ new TRAP law has grabbed headlines for forcing dozens of clinics to close. But Ohio’s TRAP law is actually even more stringent than the ones in place in other states.
TRAP laws typically take two different forms (and many states, like Texas, enact both versions). The first type requires abortion clinics to bring their building codes in line with the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, which typically involves costly and unnecessary updates like widening hallways and installing drinking fountains. The second type requires abortion doctors to enter into partnerships with local hospitals, in case one of their patients experiences severe complications and needs to be transferred to emergency care. These transfer agreements are totally superfluous, don’t indicate how skilled an abortion provider is, and are opposed by major medical groups.
Ohio’s version of the second type of TRAP law is unique. In addition to requiring abortion providers to make a transfer agreement with a local hospital, Ohio’s law forbids public hospitals from entering into those partnerships. That means the University of Toledo, which used to partner with the abortion clinics in the state’s fourth-largest city in order to allow them to stay open, can no longer play this role. That’s forcing multiple abortion clinics to close their doors even though they have a record of providing safe reproductive health care.
Ohio’s law also gives the governor considerable power to ensure that clinics are forced out out of business. It’s written in a way that allows the director of the state health department — a politically appointed position — to have the final say about whether clinics’ transfer agreements are good enough. Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, referred to the new clinic standards as “a regulatory witch hunt” when facilities first started shutting down this past fall.
Now, the women who live in Toledo and Cincinnati — some of the state’s most populous cities — are in danger of losing access to nearby abortion clinics altogether. Two clinics in the Cincinnati area are struggling to remain open, and if they’re unsuccessful, the region will become the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion clinic. Meanwhile, Toledo’s last abortion clinic is fighting to get the state health department to approve a transfer agreement with a private hospital located across the border in Michigan, but state officials appear poised to argue that Michigan hospitals don’t count as “local.”
As women in Ohio are facing mounting barriers to reproductive health services, they’re being forced to leave the state to get the care they need. Abortion clinics in neighboring Michigan have seen an influx in Ohio patients over the last several months. The facility located nearest to Toledo has even hired additional staff to accommodate the recent increase, and is worried about what will happen if Toledo’s last clinic shuts down. Not every woman can afford to make a trip across state lines.
Reproductive rights advocates in the state are well aware of what they’re up against.
“Governor John Kasich has enacted more restrictions on access to reproductive health care — including safe, legal abortion and family planning services — than any governor in memory. None of his policies will help prevent unintended pregnancy and therefore the need for abortion. In fact, quite the opposite,” NARAL’s Copeland told ThinkProgress in an email exchange. “And more anti-choice measures are pending in the Ohio Legislature. On top of all of that, Governor Kasich is abusing his regulatory authority in an attempt to close abortion clinics across Ohio.”
So why haven’t you heard more about Ohio? Because the abortion opponents there are doing a good job framing the situation on their terms and largely remaining under the radar.
“Ohio has become a laboratory for what anti-abortion leaders call the incremental strategy — passing a web of rules designed to push the hazy boundaries of Supreme Court guidelines without flagrantly violating them,” the New York Times reported in October. “These laws have passed without the national drama provoked by far-reaching abortion bans that were approved, then overturned in court, in states like Arkansas and North Dakota.”
Ohio Right to Life, the largest anti-choice group in the state, is hoping that this incremental approach will eventually end abortion in the state altogether. The group’s president, Mike Gonidakis, recently told Gannett Ohio that closing all of Ohio’s abortion clinics is well within the bounds of Roe v. Wade because women would still have “access” to clinics in other states.
“There is no law or court ruling about mileage or length of time to get to a clinic,” Gonidakis said.
And abortion opponents show no sign of stopping, indicating that they’ll continue to use the state’s regulatory system to accomplish that ultimate goal. This past week, anti-choice groups began calling for a larger investigation into Ohio’s abortion clinics, claiming that it’s “ironic” that reproductive rights advocates have complained about the harsh new clinic standards when “it appears that the regulations aren’t strict enough.”
Copeland told ThinkProgress that the state’s elected officials will eventually feel the consequences of their recent anti-abortion crusade. “Ohio women are fed up with politicians interfering with their medical decisions and they will make that known when they go to the polls in November,” Copeland noted.
In what could be a case of history repeating itself, former Ohio Tea Party politician Sara Marie Brenner and her husband Andrew Brenner (a current Ohio State Representative) allegedly have not registered or licensed their Ohio-based for-profit news organization “Brenner Brief" - a move that has potential political, legal, and tax implications for the conservative couple. We received word of the missing business filings and proper licensing via social media and are engaged in an ongoing investigation of the facts surrounding this newest Brenner scandal.This wouldn’t be the first instance of business and/or legal malfeasance for the legally-embattled couple. In 2012 Brenner began another for-profit business (also without proper registration or licensing) called the ‘PolitigalNetwork’. In that instance Brenner actually offered illegal tax deductions to anyone who donated money to her organization inaccurately citing an Ohio campaign donations law. Not long after we reported her illegal activity, the entire website was taken offline and has been down ever since. And that’s not the biggest of the Brenners’ problems.The Brenners have collectively accumulated five business tax liens related to workers’ compensation and back taxes as well as three separate lawsuits filed by former employees (all of which the Brenners have either lost or settled to stay out of court). With their history of mishandling business affairs, potential underhanded dealings in the Brenners’ current business venture couldn’t be ignored.We originally received mention after two separate news stories broke this week related to the Brenner news blog. The first - which is still making national headlines - involved Rep. Andrew Brenner’s article where he argued that public education is tantamount to socialism and should be abolished in favor of private schools. We also reported on Sara Marie Brenner’s intentional misunderstanding of how the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee works in her publishing of a Sandy Hook hoax article on her news blog.
After receiving tip that the Brenner Brief was not registered in Ohio (where the Brenners reside) as an actIve business (even though the Brenners claim otherwise), we took to the Ohio Secretary of State Office’s website and conducted extensive searches of LLC’s using different combinations of their blog name - and all searches ended with similar results. The only applicable LLC businesses registered with “Brenner” in the name belongs to Rep. Andrew Brenner - a domestic LLC created long before the inception of the Brenner Brief. And searching with each of the Brenners as agents and/or incorporators brought up similarly vacant results. The only additional listing we found related to Sara Marie Brenner’s failed Music Lessons business.We additionally attempted to clarify what LLC name the business was registered as on the actual Brenner Brief website; unfortunately, the Brenners do not list it publicly. We’ve emailed the Brenners requesting clarification on the name of the LLC they have registered with Ohio and will update this article should they respond.In addition to lacking a visible, registered business name in the state of Ohio (despite their public assurances to the contrary), the Brenners’ story has other visible cracks.
In researching the domain registration, the original tipster noted the unusual details of the domain registration including the lack of business-related (LLC) information and the use of their home address in Powell as the domain registration address. Were this merely the initial whois lookup of the business that wouldn’t be an aberration (many business owners register with their personal information to start a business before getting it up and off the ground); the Brenner Brief has been established for some time now and the registration is either still current without actual LLC business registration information or illegally out of date.While the repercussions of illegally operating a for-profit business may not have long-lasting effects on Sara Marie Brenner (as can be witnessed by her previous endeavor), her current joint venture with her husband - a venture he regularly contributes to - could have detrimental effects on his political career (which has already been called into question after his education socialism remarks). Additionally, should the Brenners not be able to show they have filed all proper business and tax documents related to this venture, their joint personal taxes would additionally be affected (which again would not be the first time the couple has jointly experienced the financial pain of one of Sara Marie’s failed enterprises). Ohio law dictates that any business (regardless of size) must have at least a generic business license in addition to registering with the Secretary of State’s office. At this point we cannot confirm the Brenners have accomplished either of those tasks with the Brenner Brief.
As of the writing of this article both Sara Marie Brenner and Ohio State Rep. Andrew Brenner have refused to comment on this story and have ignored multiple requests for clarification and/or official statement.
Update as of March 15, 2014 at 10:55pm ET:
Sara Marie Brenner (posting both as herself and her blog via her personal and news site Twitter accounts) has responded. The responses are below. It appears that Brenner will not be releasing the name of her LLC (choosing instead to call those asking for the name “scum,” “Commie” and “ilk” in addition to once again threatening libel lawsuits as she has in the past in order to silence those seeking the truth).