Ohio Democrat flips stance on abortion

A Democratic lawmaker who has long sought to restrict abortion access said Wednesday that he now believes “the heavy hand of government” should not be the decision-maker for women and their families.

“I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday by the Akron Beacon Journal.

Ryan, who was raised Catholic, said he had always described himself as “pro-life.” But in his 14 years in office, the 41-year-old representative said he has heard stories from women who have had abortions because they can’t afford another child or because they are afraid of a violent spouse.

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“There is no easy answer,” he wrote. “There are too many scenarios, too many variables and too much complexity for pregnancy to be anything but a personal decision.”

He has also became a husband and a parent since he was first election — experiences that he said “forever changed” him.

Ryan's changed stance leaves just a handful of Democrats who oppose abortion in the House, including Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

Since being elected to Congress, Ryan has supported anti-abortion measures such as the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act and laws that would require parental notification for young women to obtain an abortion.

He has also partnered within his party, with members such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), to support legislation focusing on reducing unplanned pregnancies, which he said Wednesday remains his ultimate goal.

The Democrat's remarks come after a week when the issue of abortion caused an embarrassment for House Republicans. A rift within the party prompted GOP leaders to cancel a vote on a bill to ban late-term abortions.  

Planned Parenthood Action Fund quickly began circulating Ryan's op-ed, with its president, Cecile Richards, praising him for his "honesty and courage" to share his views.

"Abortion is a complex and deeply personal issue, and Congressman Ryan’s journey is not unusual," she wrote in a statement. "Congressman Ryan joins the overwhelming majority of Americans who want women to have access to abortion and don’t want politicians to interfere in women’s personal medical decisions."