Abortion limits turn GOP lawmaker against budget

The Springfield Republican who broke with his party to vote against the $62 billion, two-year state budget did so because he called the last-minute addition of new abortion restrictions “a perversion of the process.”

Rep. Ross McGregor, in his fourth and final term in the Ohio House, told the Springfield News-Sun he warned his caucus that if amendments addressing social issues were tucked into the budget bill without giving Ohioans a chance to comment, he wouldn’t support it.

“They put in a version of the ‘heartbeat bill’ that they couldn’t get passed in the last General Assembly. This was the only way they could do it,” McGregor said. “The process has been twisted so egregiously that it put me over the edge.”

McGregor was one of seven Republicans in the GOP-controlled House to join with all Democrats to vote against the bill, which cleared both chambers of the Ohio legislature late last week. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, was expected to sign the budget into law Sunday.

The new anti-abortion measures — added by the six-member conference committee tasked with working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget bill — require physicians providing abortions to first try detecting a heartbeat, then to estimate the probability of bringing the fetus to term.

Physicians who don’t face jail time.

“Republicans have this fixation,” McGregor said. “This is an area where government doesn’t need to be inserting itself.”

“If you want to talk about the economy and finding people jobs,” he added, “I’m your guy.”

Speaker of the House William Batchelder, a Medina Republican, appreciated McGregor’s “honesty and candor.”

“Rep. McGregor has always voted in a way that he believes reflects the desires of his district, and the Speaker has the utmost respect for that,” said Mike Dittoe, Batchelder’s spokesman. “The Speaker always welcomes the opinions of members on how to improve the legislative process in the future.”

When the so-called “heartbeat bill” last appeared before state lawmakers, McGregor said, hearings were held, which gave the public a chance to participate.

“These budget bills have become the repository for policy decisions,” McGregor said. “It’s a lot more convenient to add these into the budget, because then you don’t have to be bothered by people expressing their opinions.”