On April 7th, I joined 4000 other pro-choice activists for the 2011 Stand Up for Women’s Health rally in Washington, D.C. Organized by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-choice America and a myriad of partners, the importance of the rally is likely quite clear to Free Press readers. The existence of a strategic legislative assault against the reproductive rights of female-bodied Americans can hardly be denied, as we in Ohio watch with apprehension as local Republicans debate our civil liberties in the guise of protecting human life. We watch as Republicans parade the “testimony” of fetuses before an elected body while the women carrying those fetuses remain silent on the stand. We watch, and many of us have decided to act. 200 pro-choice activists from across the state of Ohio filled three buses chartered by Planned Parenthood and drove through the night to reach Capitol Hill in time to lobby for reproductive rights and participate in the day’s main event, a rally on the Capitol lawn.

Along with three other area college students, I personally handed Congressman Steve Austria’s staffer a letter that urged the congressman to reconsider his position on women’s health care. Austria, the Republican representative for the seventh district, recently cosponsored HB #3. This bill received strong criticism for its attempt to redefine rape in order to limit the amount of taxpayer subsidies a survivor may receive to pay for an abortion. According to Steve Austria, only victims of “forcible rape” should be eligible for these funds. No word on what exactly the esteemed congressman believes qualifies as forcible rape, but I imagine that date rape doesn’t measure up to his standards. Neither does incest or child molestation . Though the “forcible rape” language has since been dropped from the bill, limitations on exemptions for incest remain, and the fact stands that Steve Austria supported the original language.

He finds support in the House, whose Republican members recently attempted to defund Planned Parenthood as part of their budget plan. They failed , but lost the battle rather than the war: the rider to defund Planned Parenthood has been stripped for the budget, but remains up for debate as a separate measure. These attempts reflect the deeply arrogant belief that women should not be permitted to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies. That same arrogance can also be seen in the Ohio House, where Rep. Lynn Wachtmann continues to fight on behalf of the Heartbeat Bill. This bill would ban all terminations after a heartbeat is detected in a woman’s fetus. There are no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, and no provision for women whose lives are deemed to be in danger from their pregnancies. The bill joins six other bills designed to limit the constitutional right of female bodied people to their own bodily autonomy. Other bills include attempts to make it even more difficult for minors to receive judicial bypass in order to receive an abortion, regardless of any potential domestic abuse they might face for their decision; and a ban on all abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. Fortunately, the last bill failed. But these pieces of legislation, based on pseudoscience regarding fetal viability. and a Victorian sensibility regarding a woman’s sexual choices remain a significant threat to Ohio women.

But on April 7th, we took a stand with Americans of all genders and demanded better representation from our elected officials. It’s the same stand we took on February 26th when we took to the streets of Columbus to signify our support for reproductive rights as part of the Walk for Choice, and it’s a stand we’ll take again on May 10th as we fill the Statehouse for the Freedom of Choice Ohio Lobby Day. It’s a stand we have to take every day, rally or no rally, walk or no walk, no matter what the venerable Lynn Wachtmann or his ideological brothers Steve Austria and John Boehner manage to accomplish on the state and federal levels. I stood on Capitol Hill and raised my voice because I believe that you should do that, as long as you still have one. As a woman, a survivor of sexual assault, and a person with disabilities whose chronic illness might very well jeopardize any pregnancy I experience, I interpret these bills as a direct attack on my continued physical wellbeing. I therefore categorically reject these assaults on my healthcare decisions and I urge you to do the same.

If you agree, and would like to become involved in local advocacy efforts, please consider registering for the Freedom of Choice Ohio Lobby day. You can also join Ohioans for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio on Facebook, or follow Ohioans for Choice on Tumblr. Social conservatives are determined to limit our rights and it’s time to show them exactly how deeply they’ve overestimated popular support for their agenda. Anti-choice legislation continues to appear across the country and there is no better time to join Ohio pro-choice activists in raising our voices to defend our rights to our bodies.