“Kasich is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s going out there trying to sell himself as a moderate, he’s no moderate. He is an extremist,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion rights advocacy group. “He is—if not the worst—among the worst of anti-choice governors in this country’s history.”
Since Kasich entered office in 2011, he has enacted 16 anti-abortion measures. Some directly restrict abortion access, such as the 20-week late-term ban that he signed six months after entering office. Others limit the work of abortion providers. For example, in 2013 he signed the state’s budget bill, which included one provision that prohibits state-funded rape crisis counselors from referring women to abortion services and another that stripped Planned Parenthood of an estimated $1.4 million in federal family-planning dollars. The measures have had drastic consequences for access to abortion and medical care for Ohio women: During Kasich’s time in office, the number of abortion providers in the state has dropped from 16 to eight.
Ohio has long been a leader in imposing anti-abortion laws. According to Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit that supports abortion rights, the state has been viewed as an incubator for new anti-abortion legislation for decades. In 1995, the Ohio legislature passed the country’s first state ban on “partial birth” abortions, a rare late-term procedure used nationally in only about 2,200 abortions a year in extreme instances when there are severe health complications for either the mother or the child. While the bill was struck down in federal court and the Supreme Court later denied an appeal, Ohio’s initial move set off a wave of copycat bills throughout the country that culminated in President George W. Bush signing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003, which outlawed the procedure nationally. “Ohio is a testing ground for abortion restrictions,” says Nash.
During his first term as governor, Kasich was outspoken in his anti-abortion rhetoric. In 2011, after signing the Late-Term Abortion Ban, a bill that required physicians to test the viability of an unborn child if the mother sought an abortion at 20 weeks or later in her pregnancy, Kasich released a statement saying, “Life is a gift from God and one way that we express our ongoing gratitude for it is by respecting it. This bill does that in a very fundamental way and I’m proud to have signed it into law.” In October 2012, Kasich appointed Michael Gonidakis, the Ohio Right to Life President, to the state medical board.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the latest Republican to step into the presidential fray, has widely been labeled the moderate in a GOP field that tilts sharply to the right. Climate change? It’s real. Common Core educational standards? He’ll take it. Medicaid expansion? Sure. Immigration reform? He’s open to the possibilities. But his celebrated moderation disappears when it comes to reproductive rights. The religious * former congressman and two-term governor is a hardliner on abortion: As governor he’s signed and supported some of the most stringent anti-abortion legislation in the country.