No Hero, No Coverage: Restrictive Abortion Provisions in Ohio Budget

Wendy Davis (cc photo: David Weaver)

Wendy Davis (cc photo: David Weaver)

Everyone heard about the one state senator in Texas who stood up–literally–for a woman’s right to choose. But there was little commotion after recent abortion-restricting legislation in Ohio was passed.

The budget bill Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed late last month had numerous anti-abortion provisions in it. Similar laws are starting to be enforced this month in a number of states, including Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota (ABC7/2/13).  

The Ohio budget bill will make it difficult for family planning groups to receive funding (Washington Post, 7/1/13) and can suspend public assets for rape crisis clinics if they counsel victims on abortion options (Reuters, 6/30/13).  One of the most intrusive sections of the budget mandates that mothers seeking an abortion must undergo a fetal ultrasound, whether or not the doctor recommends it, and requires doctor’s to inform them of their unborn child’s heartbeat (Mother Jones7/1/13). 

NBC host Rachel Maddow pointed out on her show (7/1/13) that these lawmakers actually changed the definition of pregnancy:

Now by decree, from Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republicans in the Ohio state legislature, your pregnancy begins even before implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining.

Wendy Davis’ remarkable filibuster  in Texas was mentioned in a total of 737 stories in the U.S.  between June 23 to June 29, according to the Nexis news database. She was reported across the globe in 179 newspapers, 116 newswires, 102 web-based publications and  59 news transcripts. 

Gov. John Kasich signing abortion restrictions.

Male politicians gather round to watch Ohio Gov. John Kasich sign restrictions on abortion into law.

The abortion restrictions in Ohio’s budget was reported 72 times in the U.S. between June 28 and July 3–16 of which were in newspapers, three in Web-based publications, 22 newswires and eight news transcripts around the world. 

These stories are similar, but the Texas legislation received far more coverage because there was a strong figure trying to prevent it in a dramatic fashion. No one would deny the importance of Davis’ stand, but the media’s reliance on character and drama allowed Ohio’s abortion restrictions to slip under everyone’s noses.

The media is supposed to serve as a check on government power by educating the citizenry on legislation that will affect them. By taking a pass on the Ohio story because there wasn’t a heroic figure to tell a story about, journalists let the public down.