Morgan Harper

One day after Ohio Republicans introduced the nation’s most restrictive abortion bill, progressive Senate candidate, Morgan Harper, spoke at a press conference on Friday in the shadow of Ohio’s Statehouse. “We are hanging by a thread here,” she urged, as the dozen or so onlookers stood bundled on a cold November morning. “We can’t let them win, the stakes are too high.”

The press conference came only a month after a thousand Ohioans gathered at the Statehouse’s steps to both denounce Texas’ abortion law and send a message to Ohio’s Republican state officeholders that whatever future abortion ban they were planning would be resisted. That bill, Ohio House Bill 480, was introduced Wednesday as an anti-abortion bill which mirrors much of Texas’ Senate Bill 8. It rewards “any person” $10,000 or more for filing civil lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, there are no exceptions for rape or incest, and defendants can’t use “not knowing” about the law as a legal defense.

But Ohio’s bill would go even further than the one in Texas. HB 480 wouldn’t ban abortions after six weeks, but instead ban abortions altogether in the state of Ohio. “Ohio has once again proved it is one of the most extreme states for abortion access,” said Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio in a statement.

At Thursday’s press conference, the president and vice president of OSU’s Student Advocates for Sexual Health Awareness (SASHA), emphasized that banning abortions in Ohio would drastically impact working-class women and people of color, more so than those who can afford to travel to another state for access to safe abortions.

SASHA’s president, Sky Hart, pointed out that an abortion costs around $650 and a surgical abortion costs well over $1,000, noting that working class people would not only need enough for an abortion, but “enough money to travel to stay in another state, to take time off work or school and find necessary childcare; all of this would add up to be hundreds and thousands of dollars, which many of us do not have access to.”

Ohio, controlled by a Republican supermajority in the state legislature with gerrymandered districts, is a state waiting for an alternative to career Democrats and Republicans, said Harper. She’s advocating for new political alternatives, pointing optimistically to the mayoral wins in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Lima, and Cleveland Heights.

“The same old playbook will not work,” she asserted. “We have to recognize that voters are rejecting career politicians; they do not trust them. And we have to have candidates with new ideas, exciting ideas, and ideas that reflect the desires of most of the people living in this state and across the country.”

Harper called out her Democratic opponent, Tim Ryan, who considered himself pro-life until 2015. Ryan grew up Catholic, claiming his views changed as he met with women across the state of Ohio.

Clashing with Republicans and a formally pro-life Democrat, Harper asserted “we have to elect a Senator that has always and will always be on the side of women. And I am the only one in this Senate race who can say that truthfully, honestly.”

Harper wrapped up her statements as the sun charitably moved to warm the crowd. She emphasized the Democratic Party “cannot run on just Trump and scare tactics.” She maintained that Democrats must not only be for something in their agenda, but also be effective at materializing results that “will tangibly improve our lives.”

As a progressive outsider, she emphasized that “we have to recognize that the only way we have a shot is by talking to the people, by embracing new types of candidates, by having a campaign that will energize and mobilize people across the state of Ohio to pay attention, believe, trust, care, and join our fight.”