Cleveland.com, February 15, 2012 by Aaron Marshall
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill aimed at expanding the scope of work that physician assistants can do suddenly is at the center of a heated battle over birth control.
A last-minute amendment from State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, chairman of the House Health and Aging Committee, bans physician assistants from inserting or removing intrauterine devices, or IUDs, a common form of birth control. Currently, they are allowed to do so.
Slipped into the bill minutes before the committee approved the bill on a party-line vote, the chairman’s amendment was not the subject of any testimony during the half-dozen hearings on the legislation. Wachtmann told The Plain Dealer he included the provision because of his belief that a fertilized egg is a human life. IUDs prevent pregnancies by not allowing fertilized eggs to implant in the uterus.
“I’m pro-life and I don’t want to encourage any medical professionals including PAs to be able to do that,” the Napoleon Republican said after the vote.
House Democrats on the committee were angered by Wachtmann’s move.
“This is a glaring example of ideology being inserted into legislation where it has no place,” said Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood. “The focus of this bill was about expanding the scope of physician assistants and allowing them to better help their patients, and now it’s being used to restrict women’s rights to health care.”
Antonio offered an amendment to gut Wachtmann’s provision, but it failed on a party-line vote.
A Columbus Democrat, Rep. John Carney, argued that Wachtmann was asking members to approve something with no justification.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s in the best interest of this committee to vote blindly on an amendment where we have received no testimony from physicians,” he said. “I don’t understand why we are voting on this.”
Wachtmann told Democrats on the committee that it was simply “a matter of public policy” for lawmakers to decide.
The latest skirmish comes during one of the more active anti-abortion sessions of the Ohio legislature in recent memory. Already during this session, House lawmakers have voted to ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected and made it tougher for minors to get a judge’s permission to get an abortion without parental consent. The so-called “heartbeat” bill, which has stalled in the Ohio Senate, is one of the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion measures.
“It’s a systematic and total attack on women’s reproductive rights,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “It’s not their job — they should be doing what they were elected to do, which is creating jobs and fixing the economy.”
The bill now moves to the full House.
Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for GOP House Speaker William G. Batchelder of Medina, said in an email that he didn’t know whether the bill would be scheduled for a vote.