On August 26, 2021, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio’s Ariana Ybarra submitted testimony to the Ohio Redistricting Commission for a regional meeting in Lima, Ohio.
Transcript of her testimony:
First, I would like to thank Speaker Cupp, Senator Sykes, and the members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission for the opportunity to testify in support of Ohio’s redistricting process and in the hopes that these community hearings result in the fair maps that Ohio voters deserve.
My name is Ariana Ybarra and I am the Central and Southern Ohio Organizer for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, a position that I am proud to be in. It’s an honor to be able to work alongside people in Central and Southern Ohio in the fight for abortion access and reproductive freedom. Through so, so many of the conversations I have with folks across the state, I hear the frustration and disenfranchisement felt by voters because of the rampant partisan gerrymandering in our state.
Partisan gerrymandering has led to an influx of abortion bans and targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws) over the past 10 years — 30 restrictions, to be exact. These bans and restrictions do not reflect the reality in Ohio: our communities support access to safe, legal abortion. Despite the fact that more than 6 out of 10 Ohioans support the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, we have an extremely disproportionate number of anti-choice legislators who continuously fight tooth and nail to chip away at abortion access, with the goal of making abortion completely inaccessible or criminalized outright.
In rural areas of Ohio, the nearest abortion clinic is often over an hour away. When I attending college in Athens, Ohio at Ohio University, my peers and I were trepidatious about the hoops we would need to jump through if we needed an abortion due to being in a rural area. Even though there are two clinics in Columbus, an hour and a half away from Athens, the nine clinics we have left are so busy that we may have needed to travel to other parts of the states, or even out of state. For folks in and around Lima, the nearest clinic is in Dayton, again an hour and a half away; this clinic is at risk of closure due to abortion restrictions in the proposed budget. If our disproportionately anti-choice legislature hadn’t been continuously working close our abortion clinics, with half of them closing since 2011, this wouldn’t be such an issue for rural communities.
Partisan gerrymandering has led to a intersecting web of obstacles to accessing abortion — beyond the 30 abortion bans that have been introduced in the past 10 years and the loss of multiple clinics, Ohio is also lacking in robust public transit, better worker protections, affordable childcare, and more. All of these issues contribute to making Ohio one of the most hostile states for reproductive rights. But this isn’t the only issue that has arisen as a result of gerrymandering. Ohio also has poor health outcomes, especially for poor communities and people of color, high rates of maternal and infant mortality, and an unconstitutional public school funding system.
Gerrymandering has directly led to making abortion in Ohio the least accessible it has ever been since the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade in 1973. Again, the majority of Ohioans support Roe. If we balance the scales in the Statehouse through the implementation of fairer maps, we will be able to better address and work towards equitable school funding, improving health outcomes, lowering maternal and infant mortality rates, and increasing access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare. Instead of having a disproportionate number of anti-choice legislators who are following their own agenda and hammering down on abortion access, we should have a legislature that is focused on solving actual issues in the state that affect Ohioans lives every single day. Things like public transit, clean water, school funding, health outcomes, and hunger. That is the legislature Ohioans need and deserve.
We need a fair redistricting process so that Ohioans are properly represented and their views, beliefs, and needs are reflected in the decisions made and bills passed in the Statehouse.
We need a fair redistricting process so that voters know and feel that their vote actually counts, leading to higher voter turnout. We need a fair redistricting process so that we have a legislature that will dedicate their time and energy to helping improve the material conditions of Ohioans, especially those who are being underserved such as our rural communities and our communities of color. We need a fair redistricting process so that voters pick their legislators, not the other way around. Regardless of this commission’s personal beliefs on policy-based issues in this state, I hope you’ll take into consideration that fair maps, districts drawn with community input, represent Ohioans more equally and will be a benefit for all. Thank you.