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

Caitlin Horwatt

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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.

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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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Ginther names two independent entities for administrative and criminal review of CPD

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Mayor Andrew J. Ginther addressed masked members of the media at the Michael B. Coleman Government Center on Wednesday. In the mayor’s address, Ginther gave an update on who would be heading the investigations into police response to protests. 

“I challenge the FOP in joining the community in demanding change and reform,” Ginther said during the press conference.

Ned Pettus, Director of Public Safety, introduced Ginther before he announced the two independent entities charged with completing an administrative and criminal review of the Columbus Division of Police.

The law firm BakerHostetler is being brought in to review cases that require administrative action outside of police policy and are open for discipline with the CPD. So far 40 incidents have been identified for referral to the law firm.

A professional investigator, also a retired FBI agent, will be brought in to review 16 incidents that may result in criminal charges. The name of the professional investigator has not yet been disclosed.

Although Ginther mentioned that the images of the use of pepper spray by the CPD “don’t live up to community or (his) standards,” he did support the continued use of it being dispersed amongst peaceful protestors who were impeding traffic. Ginther did bring up that the city has encouraged peaceful protestors to stay on sidewalks.

Ginther also announced the workgroup that would help establish the future civilian review board, which is slated  for creation by the end of the year Those city officials include:

·        Jasmine Ayres, community organizer, People's Justice Project

·        Fred Benton, attorney

·        Bo Chilton, President and CEO, Impact Community Action

·        Dr. Lewis Dodley, IMPACT Community Action

·        Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of Columbus Urban League

·        Pastor Frederick LaMarr, President, Baptist Pastors Conference

·        Kent Markus, General/Bar Counsel, Columbus Bar Association

·        Jonathan McCombs, Dean of College of Health and Public Administration, Franklin University

·        Ismail Mohammad, attorney, Ismail Law Office

·        Densil R. Porteous, Chair, Create Columbus

·        Aslyne Rodriguez, Director of Government Affairs, COTA

·        Janay Stevens, President, John Mercer Langston Bar Association, Associate, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP

·        Kyle Strickland, Senior Legal Analyst, Kirwin Institute

·        Erin Synk, Director of Government Relations, LNE Group

·        Nana Watson, President, NAACP Columbus

·        Anthony Wilson, Vice President National Organization of Black Law Enforcement - Columbus Chapter

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Elizabeth Brown hosts virtual public hearing on demilitarization of police

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President Pro Tempore and Finance Committee Chair Elizabeth Brown and several other Columbus City Council members held a virtual finance committee public hearing Tuesday afternoon that lasted long into the evening. The hearing was held to “discuss equipment purchased for and allowed to be purchased for by the police department.”

“I believe that in this country...we strive to have community-based safety forces,” Brown said during the hearing. “I believe for the protection of our residents, for that to exist, there should be a covenant between police and people that we are on the same side.”

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order limiting the amount of military-grade gear going to police departments. In that executive order, there were two lists of military-grade weapons: prohibited and controlled.

In 2017, President Donald Trump rescinded that executive order, effectively opening the door to the militarization of police departments across the country.

Deputy Chief Michael Woods thoroughly listed the use of certain military-style equipment, not limited to weapons, and physical purchases by the Columbus Division of Police. Deputy Woods outlined the equipment that the CPD doesn’t possess as well.

Some of the prohibited items discussed included: 

  • Trekked armored vehicles – none owned by CPD
  • Weaponized aircraft vessels /vehicles of any kind – none owned by CPD
  • Firearms and ammunition of 50 caliber or higher – none owned by CPD
  • Grenade launchers – none, but do use gas guns ($936 each)
  • Camouflage uniforms – CPD wears a woodland pattern ($316/uniform)

Some of the controlled items discussed included:

  • Helicopters – CPD ranks higher in helicopter fleet (six helicopters)
  • Riot shields and batons – haven’t purchased new ones in 15 years ($200 each)
  • Tasers
  • M16 military rifles and gas guns
  • Armored vehicles

There are arguments to be made on both sides when it comes to using military-grade equipment. For example, the roar of helicopters may incite fear in communities, but they provide valuable community resources in locating missing persons or during natural disasters. And if their use is valid, is six excessive and even wasteful?

Columbus residents were encouraged to submit written testimony to Brown’s office and participate in the virtual press conference. Columbus City Council received an outpouring of community engagement, including 906 written comments and 69 speaker testimonies. Many spoke in length about the unprovoked and violent force used by the police since the protests started at the end of May.

“The overwhelming public engagement we received is more evidence of the urgent need to think differently about how we keep every resident safe in our city. I’m grateful to the nearly 1,000 people who lent their voices. I also appreciate (the) Division of Police personnel for providing information to Council and residents — they answered some important questions, and we will continue to ask more questions. Creating public policy is not just putting words on paper; it’s about making a difference in people’s lives. We are all better prepared for that job by having given residents the mic last night.”

President Pro Tempore and Finance Committee Chair Elizabeth Brown said in a statement to (614)


Those who spoke included the Department of Finance Director Joe Lombardi, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Chair Mitchell J. Brown, Director of Public Safety Ned Pettus, and several other council members.

Before the list of prohibited and controlled equipment was outlined by Woods, Lombardi went through the process that the city goes through when setting a specific budget. Here is the procedure for 2021:

  • The budget process begins in June, and the Department of Finance puts together target budgets; target budgets are based on estimates of available resources from following fiscal year
  • A series of meetings will take place between August and October
  • Budget is adopted in February

(614) reached out to the CPD for comment after the press conference and had not received a response at the time of publishing.

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Columbus City Council announces additional steps toward police reform

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On Thursday, Columbus city council members discussed short and long-term public safety reform measures and opportunities for the public to sit in on a finance committee hearing about the allocation of policing funds.

More dollars toward safe, sanitary public housing; less money spent on militarizing the police. 

City Council President Shannon Hardin began the conversation with a message to the public to hold city council members accountable for the steps toward reform outlined on Thursday.

After it was announced by city officials on June 30 that the Columbus police would no longer be permitted to use chemical agents on peaceful protesters, a group downtown was sprayed on Sunday, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch.

“We know that the current system isn’t (keeping every resident safe.)”

Elizabeth Brown, Columbus City Council President Pro Tempore

In an effort to continue to improve community relations with police, Columbus City Councilmembers announced four critical short-term measures to continue to slowly reform the police.

Those short-term measures include:

  1. No more no-knock raids
  2. Hate-group background checks for police
  3. Demilitarization of police
  4. Executive order allowing outside independent investigations

Hardin mentioned that a legislative package passing this reform would go into effect by the end of July. He also announced that there would be a finance committee hearing on June 30, where they would discuss what equipment Columbus police is allowed to purchase and use in our city.

“We do write laws and we do pass budgets,” Hardin said.

Brown also discussed the importance of the demilitarization of police and using those funds for investing in Black communities.

“This is our moment to act,” Hardin said. “We have the opportunity to move legislation...that will change our city forever.”

Hardin also mentioned that Columbus residents will be updated on the long-term reform the city has planned for the Columbus Division of Police. This includes providing better resources to mental health specialists and social workers so that they have the proper tools to handle the problems that the police aren’t equipped to do.

Hardin also announced that there will be a safety advisory commission held in July.

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