County executive candidate Chris Ronayne offers 5-part ‘Reproductive Freedom’ plan to support access to abortion, especially for county employees

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Chris Ronayne, a Democratic running mate for Cuyahoga County, announced a “reproductive freedom” plan on Friday to ensure abortion care and access for county residents following recent actions stripping them of these protections.

His proposed five-part plan includes:

  • Introducing legislation to the county council to prohibit the use of county government resources or funds to aid or cooperate in any investigation of abortion care.
  • Ensure abortion care is included in insurance coverage for all county government employees
  • Institute a travel reimbursement policy for employees who must travel to receive health services that are unavailable or restricted within 150 miles of Cuyahoga County
  • Bringing together partners across the county to ensure that all Cuyahoga County residents have the funds necessary to travel to and receive abortion services unavailable in Ohio
  • Assemble a women’s health action team that includes medical professionals, reproductive health experts, and people with lived experience

“I pledge to do my best to protect the rights, privacy and health of all residents of Cuyahoga County,” Ronayne said in a press release. “As County Executive, I will continue to fight for equality, access and reproductive freedom. It is my job to protect our residents from sweeping legislation proposed by the extremist wing of the Republican Party.

His proposal comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, who triggered a bill criminalizing any abortion after 6 weeks, with no exclusions for incest or rape. Ronayne says both events have “already prevented Ohioans from accessing needed care” and are likely to have a disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities.

It is unclear whether any of the proposals could pass sooner, during the remaining months of Executive Armond Budish in office. Following the Supreme Court’s announcement, Budish, also a Democrat, said in a statement on Twitter that the county is “reviewing how to support organizations that provide health care and related services to women in Cuyahoga County.” But he did not provide details on what that support might look like.

Friday he said he’s having conversations with organizations across Ohio, “who are dedicated to protecting women’s right to choose,” and will rely on those experts to inform decisions.

“As I have said before, the government should not dictate decisions about women’s health,” Budish said in an emailed statement. “We won’t wait for a new administration to take action to protect women’s reproductive rights.”

Lee Weingart, the Republican executive candidate, did not denounce Ronayne’s plan but neither did he applaud it. He said he supports women’s health and the reduction of health inequities in the county and called access to comprehensive health care – including reproductive health care – “a cornerstone of everything.” public health program.

However, when asked if reproductive health care includes abortion care and access, he replied, “I want to make sure that pregnant women are taken care of. He also did not provide a straight answer when asked if he thinks women should have the right to an abortion.

“I don’t think it’s a yes or no question,” he said.

Instead, Weingart accused Ronayne of “engaging in partisan, cynical and divisive politics” by making abortion rights a campaign goal. It’s an area where the county executive “has no power to regulate,” he said, indicating it’s a moot point.

“I’m focused on the things I can do as county executive,” Weingart said, listing women’s health, access to social services, safety and improving the urban environment. “I’m not looking for an office that can impact abortion rights.”

If passed, Ronayne’s plan would complement or further strengthen other actions already proposed in the state.

Nan Whaley, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said she would lead an effort to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution. It would start with a campaign to collect signatures to put protections on the ballot in 2023.

Some of Ohio’s largest employers have also pledged to pay travel costs if their employees had to leave the state to have abortions. And Cuyahoga County District Attorney Michael O’Malley joined dozens of prosecutors across the country in pledging to avoid charging those who request or perform abortions.

But Ronayne said he felt it was important to go further to strengthen access in Cuyahoga County and to prevent county resources from being used to “assist and abet any investigative or of prosecution” against those who seek or participate in abortion care. .

“Even though we know where our county attorney is, that doesn’t mean investigators in other locations can’t do things,” Ronayne said.

Ronayne said he wants his plan to serve as a “solid benchmark for other counties” and give residents hope for future reproductive freedoms. In the meantime, he said he would continue to protest the Roe v. Wade, including at a rally scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday in Lakewood Park.

The Cleveland Women’s March is also holding a rally at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday outside the Cuyahoga County Administration Building in downtown Cleveland. Activists are expected to call on the Budish executive and council “to advocate for women’s rights and access to abortion, coupled with the allocation of resources to support women’s programs in Cuyahoga County.” according to an event page on Facebook.

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