Vaccine choice demonstrators descend on Ohio Statehouse

With home-made signs and blasting bull horns, hundreds of people promoting vaccine choice demonstrated outside the Statehouse Tuesday, calling for passage of House Bill 248.

The proposal from Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, prohibits employers, including schools, nursing homes and hospitals from mandating workers to get the coronavirus vaccine.

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It would also make it illegal for anyone to discriminate against people for not getting the vaccine.

Supporters from the Miami Valley included Michelle White of Arcanum, who along with hundreds of others, waved signs along the street encouraging drivers in traffic to honk their horns to show their support for the effort to pass the bill.

White’s message to people? “Just stand up for what you believe in. It’s OK to be vaccinated. It’s OK to not be vaccinated. But we should have that choice. We should absolutely have that choice,” White said.

Roxy Rohrer, Brookville, said she does not trust the vaccine because, in her opinion, it was developed too quickly.

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“It was years for all of the other shots and they’re going to have to tie me up in a chair. I’m not going to take it. I’m not going to lay down for this,” Rohrer said.

The demonstration coincided with a hearing of the bill by the Ohio House Health Committee.

At least one Miami Valley state lawmaker was there to join the crowd.

Dressed in a suit and tie in the sweltering heat, Rep. Rodney Creech, R-West Alexandria, said he thought it was important for him to be at the Statehouse for the demonstration.

“Even though I’m not on the health committee I am part of the process and I just want to show support for the bill. I get both sides. It’s all about choice. That’s what it’s all about,” Creech said.

The hearing lasted just over four hours and was dominated by testimony from supporters of the bill.

Matthew Eaton, one of the early supporters to testify, said “Our bodies are our property, not the government’s, not a corporation. The adage, ‘my body, my choice’ is applicable here.”

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Others voiced opinions that masks do more harm than good, that vaccine producers manipulated data to benefit their bottom line, and that personal freedoms should trump public health initiatives.

Critics of the bill included Sarah Kincaid of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, which represents Dayton Children’s Hospital. Kincaid said the bill should not be passed.

“House Bill 248 is a misguided proposal that would have devastating effects on the health of our state,” Kincaid said.

Later, in a written statement, the lone doctor on the health committee, Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin, issued a statement critical of the testimony before the committee from supporters of the bill.

“This hearing pandered to the conspiracy theorists and extreme groups behind the bill, giving them equal footing with health experts and the business community. It is simple. HB 248 will lead to more disease and death in our state and it shouldn’t be law,” Liston said.

Before the hearing started, House Speaker Bob Cupp, in a rare announcement of its kind, said no amendments would be accepted by the committee and no vote would be taken.

Cupp said the testimony will be reviewed by House leadership and they will decide what to do when the full General Assembly returns to the Statehouse in mid-September.

Health Committee Chairman, Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said at the end of the hearing that no additional testimony would be accepted.

He declined to comment further and hurriedly left the hearing room, leaving reporters seeking comment behind.