After an extreme abortion restriction measure cleared the Ohio legislature last week — and with another on deck — protesters descended on the Statehouse in Columbus over the weekend. Some came armed with wire coat hangers, which they hung on the Statehouse fence in order to send a message to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who will decide whether or not to sign the bills into law.
"Health care, not hangers," one read, reminding the governor that banning abortion doesn't mean women stop getting the procedure, it just means they resort to risky measures, one notorious example being self-inducing an abortion with a coat hanger.
"Women are people," read another.
On Tuesday, the Ohio State Senate passed the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be heard — as early as six weeks, before many women even know they're pregnant. Federal courts have rejected similar restrictions in North Dakota and Arkansas on the grounds that they are unconstitutional: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up until viability, which occurs at roughly 24 weeks.
Because it seems likely that the courts would overturn a six-week ban, anti-abortion forces have typically pushed for less extreme (if still unconstitutional) restrictions. Ohio Right to Life, for example, supports a 20-week abortion ban that the legislature passed on Thursday night. In an emailed statement, Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio called the bills "a deliberate attempt to make abortion illegal in the state" and noted the bills' unpopularity among the people of Ohio.
And certainly, Ohioans are pushing back, with protesters staking out the Statehouse, carrying signs and shouting slogans like "No access, no peace." Activists turned out at the governor's mansion Tuesday, and demonstrations spread to Cincinnati on Sunday.
Andrew Miller, a local author, convened the coat hanger event on Facebook, setting it to run from Friday through Monday. As he told WSYX/WTTE, Miller wanted to protest the bills because he knows the harmful effects they'd have on the women he knew, and because he wants his daughter to grow up in a country where she retained control over her body.
"Clean out your closet of those wire hangers and maybe add a little ribbon or a note stapled on or both," reads the event description. "Let's remind Gov. Kasich of what abortion 'services' look like when we make abortion illegal. He has one week left to line item veto the Heartbeat Bill snuck into an otherwise unrelated piece of legislation. Let's cover the Statehouse fencing in wire hangers."
Facebook users obliged, documenting their coat hanger coverage on social media. According to the Cut, the hangers have been intermittently removed, but are being replaced as new waves of protesters hit the statehouse. And Kasich can look forward to receiving the shipment of 100 hangers someone reportedly sent him through Amazon.
Kasich has 10 days after the bills reach his desk to make a decision; he must veto, sign or line-item veto the heartbeat-specific language in the first bill (legislators passed the Heartbeat Bill by slipping its language into a child abuse law) by Saturday.