Anti-Abortion Group Urges Ohio Senate To Reject Limits On Health Director's Powers

May 15, 2020

A prominent anti-abortion group has taken an unusual step: asking the Ohio Senate to reject a House proposal that would restrict the power of public health orders signed by Gov. Mike DeWine and his health director.

The Ohio House added an amendment to SB 1, a bill on reducing regulations, that would make all new orders from the Ohio Department of Health effective for 14 days. After that, a supermajority of lawmakers from each chamber on a legislative panel must approve an extension.

Beth Vanderkooi with Greater Columbus Right to Life says the way she reads the amendment, after 14 days, all public health orders would be affected, not just those related to COVID-19.

She notes the Department of Health issues lots of orders – for instance, on the licenses of facilities where abortions are performed.

“Abortion, for example, is a hot button issue," Vanderkooi says. "And so it's going to be a little bit different in how it's perceived than say, a nursing home situation."

The amendment to limit public health orders was approved by Republican lawmakers in the House who identify as anti-abortion, and has also been introduced as a stand-alone bill by two strongly anti-abortion Senators.

Through public health orders, DeWine and Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton have closed businesses and schools, canceled March's in-person election, and established health requirements as the economy reopens. Republicans have criticized the slow pace of lifting restrictions, calling for businesses to be reopened all at once.

DeWine says he would veto the bill if it came to his desk. The Ohio House did not pass the bill with a veto-proof majority.