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Govt & Politics

City of Columbus Unveils Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Policy

614now Staff



On Wednesday, March 29, Columbus City Councilmember Elizabeth Brown along with the Chair of the Columbus Women’s Commission and First Lady Shannon Ginther unveiled the new City of Columbus Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Policy at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, 111 Liberty Street in Columbus.

The Comprehensive Paid Family Leave benefit consists of two parts: parental leave that provides up to six weeks of leave for welcoming a new child, and a pilot caregiver leave program which grants up to four weeks of leave to care for a seriously ill family member. Both will be reimbursed at 70 percent of pay.

“Workplace policies in our country too often haven’t kept pace with the reality of what the modern family needs. But the facts are clear: what’s good for families is good for business is good for Columbus,” Councilmember Brown said.

“We are proud that this new benefit will cover our entire workforce – from a refuse driver making $19.79 per hour to an IT professional making six figures, whether you’re a new dad, a new mom, or caring for an aging parent,” Brown continued. 

Shannon Ginther, First Lady and Chair of the City of Columbus Women’s Commission, believes this benefit is vital to promote and sustain the health of women in the workplace.

“Women often struggle to find balance in the workplace, having to choose between work and maternity leave,” said Ginther. “Paid family leave gives mothers – and fathers – the opportunity to bond with their child in the first crucial days after birth or adoption. This leads to better health outcomes for the child and strength in the family.”

Paid family leave policies preserve income and increase health outcomes for women, families, and children.

According to Innovation Ohio, rates of infant mortality, immunization, and breastfeeding have all been seen to improve when women have access to paid leave during pregnancy and after childbirth. Statistics from AARP indicate 1.4 million Ohioans are caring for an aging loved one, and due to an increasingly older population, more and more American workers will assume this responsibility in the future. 

Currently, the City of Columbus offers unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act but does not offer a specific paid family leave benefit. In addition, birth mothers have access to short-term disability, but that benefit is not available to spouses or domestic partners, or to adoptive parents.

With the adoption of its policy, Columbus will be the first city in the Midwest and third city nationally to provide comprehensive paid family leave. In doing so, it joins the ranks of companies such as Deloitte and Choice Hotels who know the business benefits of supporting a leave policy made for the whole family. 

In 2015, Innovation Ohio issued a report on the state of paid family leave in Ohio. Since that time, the organization has been a leading voice on the issue. 

“In the absence of a national paid leave law, a growing number of municipalities, states, and businesses across the US have taken the lead to enact the commonsense, family-friendly policy for their workforce,” said Erin Ryan, policy analyst at Innovation Ohio and manager of the Women’s Public Policy Network. 

“Paid family leave policies ensure that working families are no longer forced to choose between their economic security and caring for a loved one,” she continued.

 The policy change also has economic benefits, said Brown.

“Studies have shown increased retention rates for employers who have paid family leave policies,” said Brown. “There is a proven link between reduced turnover and paid leave, which contributes to better workplace productivity and translates to real dollars saved in attraction and employee training.”

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Govt & Politics

DeWine urges background checks, mental health programs following Dayton shooting

614now Staff



Following the heartbreaking mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend, Gov. Mike DeWine stepped up to the statehouse podium to lay out at least 17 proposals for gun law reform.

Among the initiatives were the Red Flag Law, expanded background checks, and mental health programs.

Watch the full address below

According to NBC4i, DeWine spent a great deal of time proposing increased penalties for felons who possess a gun illegal, or use a gun in the commission of a crime, or for when a gun is used in the commission of a felony in general, or for when someone makes a straw man purchase for someone else, or for when an adult sells a gun to a minor, to name a few. 

He also urged lawmaker to get better help for people suffering from a mental illness. DeWine also believes people inside psychiatric hospitals who are waiting to be deemed competent to stand trial for a crime would benefit from going through that process elsewhere.

WOSU reports DeWine recommended that the legislature pass laws requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales. Additionally, he thinks courts should restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats, also referred to as the Red Flag Law.

Ohio’s GOP-led state legislature has given little consideration to gun-safety measures introduced by Democrats this session, according to WOSU.

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Govt & Politics

Op-Ed: We won battle with Heartbeat Bill block, war continues

Caitlin Horwatt



Ohio’s controversial “Heartbeat Bill” has been ​blocked by a federal court​, just days before it was slated to go into enforcement on July 11. The ruling is a temporary win for pro-reproductive rights activists and Planned Parenthood, ensuring that abortion clinics in the state of Ohio can stay open. But, the war over a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy is only ramping up.

The law would have banned abortions in the state of Ohio after six weeks, the earliest time in a pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat may be detected and well before many women know they are pregnant. There were to be no exceptions for rape or incest, although there would be exceptions when the life of the mother was in danger. The law would have classified violations as fifth-degree felonies, carrying up to one year in jail time and up to $2,500 in fines as a sentence.

The ​halt was ordered ​by Judge Michael Barrett of the Southern District of Ohio U.S. District Court. Barrett pointed out that the bill placed an “undue burden” on a woman seeking to terminate a pre-viability pregnancy. The law was on its face unconstitutional, a blatant attempt to overturn the federal government’s long standing decision to give women the right to the decisions regarding their bodies. Conservatives have tried to limit bodily autonomy well before women had the right to abortions; however, they fail to attack problems like infant poverty and child hunger with the same veracity.

The bill was part of a larger strategy that’s occurred nationwide at the hands of Republican lawmakers. The right to an abortion will stand nationally as long as Supreme Court rulings, including ​Roe v. Wade,​ remain in effect. By hammering out heartbeat bills nationwide, conservatives increase their chances of getting a ruling appealed up to the Supreme Court and from there the conservative-leaning court overturning ​Roe​.

Abortions are not only justified in the case of rape or incest, which has been a clickbait-inducing theme around this controversy. Abortion is a part of reproductive healthcare, a procedure nearly one in four women​ have before the age of 45. If lawmakers are so concerned about decreasing abortion rates, presumably because of a concern for the lives of the fetuses, they should fund comprehensize sex education ​and support for impoverished children already in this country.

The right to an abortion goes further than an outright ban. Strict regulations are a backdoor way to limit abortions, claiming to regulate the abortion providers for safety purposes. The state of Missouri​ famously has just one embattled abortion clinic ​still open and providing procedures, with the fight to keep the clinic licensed and running regularly boiling down to the wire in the past several months.

It is easy to move on from this debate when a new shocking headline runs about the state of politics or the crisis at the border. Wins like this, though important, cannot be accepted as permanent. As long as conservative lawmakers are proposing bills and regulations that limit abortion care, there is a battle to be fought, because we won’t go back.

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Govt & Politics

OP-ED: Heartbeat Bill will likely affect 11yo Ohio rape victim

Caitlin Horwatt



The passage of Ohio’s recent “heartbeat bill,” signed by Governor DeWine, marks a massive and distressing win in the conservative quest to outright ban abortion. All parties supporting the bill—from DeWine to legislators and lobbyists—are well aware that the action will be blocked by courts as they uphold Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to abortion until 24 weeks gestation. We should be frightened as we explore whether their big picture goal is to get Roe v. Wade overturned by the decidedly conservative Court.

By banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, the law prohibits abortion as early as eight weeks, well before many women know they are pregnant. Add in the already mandatory twenty-four hour waiting period between first appointment and procedure, and the likelihood of legal abortion for even a pregnancy detected early seems slim. The law is an blatant attempt to ban women’s right to choose.

The Guttmacher Institute found that ​1 in 4 women​ has had an abortion before age 45. The Pew Research Center found that ​58% of Americans support legal abortion ​in all or most cases, with polarizing views against abortion coming mostly from Republican and religious Americans. These statistics fail to depict, though, how traumatic the impact can be for women forced to carry a child to term when she does not have the means or support to do so. The law is meant to protect the fetus at a term that is far earlier than the 22 to 24 weeks at which it is viable, all at the cost of the mother.

The bill notably does not give exceptions for cases of rape and incest, only allowing exceptions for medical necessity to save the mother’s life. This means an ​11 year-old rape victim from Massillon​ will likely have to carry her rapist’s baby to term.

Heartbeat bills do not ban abortion; they ban legal abortion. I think of a sign I saw during the 2017 Women’s March: a metal coat hanger with the words “WE WON’T GO BACK” scrawled below. The passage of this recent law achingly raises questions of whether or not we will go back.

Women who now find themselves pregnant could have their lives forever changed. Even if they choose to surrender the baby after birth, the cost of a pregnancy is astronomical and healthcare is far from a certainty in this country. If the pregnancy was caused by rape, the potential for trauma only escalates. Women will have few places to turn, with the most vulnerable unable to seek safe healthcare and the potential high for maternal deaths as part of botched abortions.

The ACLU and other organizations are already moving to challenge the ban in court. I can’t shake the looming feeling that these challenges will only play into the hands of those anti-abortion supporters, and that we may be entering the most important fight of our generation in this fight for a woman’s right to choose.

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