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Council votes to protect Cincinnatians from discrimination based on abortion

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Cincinnati’s nondiscrimination law is now updated to include abortion and other reproductive or sexual health decisions. Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the changes.

The nondiscrimination code protects people from housing and employment discrimination based on things like race, gender and sexual orientation. The ordinance would add "sexual or reproductive health decisions."

Council Member Meeka Owens says the update is a response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

"Really being able to protect employees from not being fired for making certain decisions around reproductive health, losing housing or any other public accommodations," Owens said. "We are just intending to protect people here in the city of making the decisions that they want to about their lives."

Owens introduced the ordinance along with Council Member Reggie Harris.

Harris says the measure would not force an employer to provide coverage for abortions or other health care.

"What it says is that when folks may seek this health care — and we know if a person wants to terminate a pregnancy past six weeks, they have to travel outside of Ohio — and if their employer gets wind of that ... they cannot be punished for seeking that health care."

Ohio's six-week abortion ban is currently on hold as another lawsuit against it plays out in court. For now, abortion is legal in Ohio up to 20 weeks.

The addition also covers things like contraception, fertility treatment, family planning services, and hormone therapy or medical treatments that affirm gender identity.

The full definition of "sexual or reproductive health decisions" is listed as: "any decision by an individual to receive or not receive services or products related to sexual and reproductive health including, but not limited to, contraception, sterilization, fertility treatment or procedures, pregnancy testing, family planning services or counseling, abortion, sexually transmitted disease testing or prevention or treatment, hormone therapy including that which alters gender expression or affirms gender identity, or medical treatments that affirm gender identity."

Council last updated the nondiscrimination law earlier this year to include breastfeeding and military status.

When Roe v. Wade was first overturned, and Ohio's six-week abortion ban took effect just hours later, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval announced a series of efforts to make access to abortion easier in the city.

That included a travel reimbursement policy for city workers who have to travel more than 150 miles for care; it applies to any medical care not available nearby, not just abortion.

Pureval also asked the city administration to prepare a report within 30 days outlining opportunities for the city to decriminalize abortion. That was at the end of June; as of Nov. 1, the report has not been released. A spokesperson for the City Manager's office said there is no updated deadline for that report as of now.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.