MARIETTA - Women's health issues will be an issue in the 2014 elections.
On the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the Ohio Democratic Party's likely gubenatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and running mate Sharen Neuhardt received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates for Ohio in Columbus as the state ticket officially made the "war on women" its prime issue for the race for governor in November.
Though the "war on women" has become a popular slogan, there's more to the issue, according to Kathy Boersma, director of the WIC office with the Washington-Morgan County Community Action.
Women's health has become narrowed to a controversy that has ignored more pertinent issues related to it, she said.
"It's not always about abortion," Boersma said.
Funding cuts from the Ohio Department of Health left Washington County with limited resources to provide women with affordable services, she said.
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"One of the issues we've had here is we no longer have a low-cost family planning clinic. The healthdepartment decided this county just didn't need it," Boersma said.
According to a report by the Associated Press, state Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, a candidate for Ohio secretary of state, said women's access to health care "is important to the well-being of Ohio's families and economy."
Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, said the discussion by the Republican and Democratic parties are out of place. She said the legislation circulating in the state, like the house's Heartbeat Bill, has made women's health a legislative issue when it should be just what it is, a health issue.
"It can be troubling to doctors to make sure they're following the law but also making sure they're doing what's best for the patient," she said.
Phillips, who will run for re-election in the fall, said her goals focus on the local economy and education.
"It's overstepping our roles," she said. "Doctors should be the ones giving the medical advice, not the politicians."
Boersma said areas like Washington County need things beyond access to abortion. The WIC office does mostly referrals as women often call in seeking help with pregnancy tests or STD screening and have to be directed to clinics in Noble County or Planned Parenthood in West Virginia if they need an affordable option.
"Doctors are doing a good job at it, but we could spend more time on it," Boersma said. "We can make an impact, as we have over the years."
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, was a co-sponsor of the recent H.B. 125, known as the "Heartbeat Bill," making an abortion illegal if there is a detectable heartbeat. He said that though he will remain with his pro-life status, more concern needs to be directed to the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect women's access to services.
"The big item this year is the president's health care plan that is kicking people off plans they love, whether you're a woman or a man," he said. "When it comes into the political realm, there's an attempt to make this 'the war on women,' but it's a way to distract from the failures of Obamacare."
Thompson said his focus is on allowing women the right to choose where they want to go for services, and that over-mandating their options isn't fair to them either.
Boersma said that rather than just "women's health," legislators as well as health professionals should focus on more specific needs, as things like cervical cancer rates have increased, issues she said could be aided if women had more access to services locally. Even things as simple as breastfeeding, she said, need to be stressed more when talking about reform.
"New moms need a lot of reenforcement on that," she said.
The Democratic event to make the pledge with Planned Parenthood was criticized by Ohio Republicans. Though both parties held different events to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court case on abortion, Republican Chairman Matt Borges called the timing, "beyond the pale," according to an Associated Press report.
The decision was, in part, an answer to the number of abortion-related measures passed on to Gov. Kasich by the Republican-controlled Ohio house last year.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said that due to the statistics that show that abortions are largely performed on African-American women, legislation should be focused on helping that demographic find solutions and assistance.
Instead, Gonidakis said, FitzGerald and his company "continue to bow at the abortion altar for a campaign contribution," according to the AP report.