September 23, 2013 — Four Ohio House Democrats last week heard testimony on concerns regarding abortion restrictions in the state budget that will take effect at the end of September, the Columbus Dispatch reports (Siegel, Columbus Dispatch, 9/19).
The budget includes a provision that requires abortion clinics to secure a transfer agreement with a private hospital and prohibits them from making such arrangements with public hospitals.
The budget also requires physicians to perform an abdominal ultrasound prior to an abortion to listen for a fetal heartbeat. The woman must be told if a heartbeat is detected and the likelihood that the fetus would survive if the pregnancy continues. The bill also defines a fetus as "developing from the moment of conception."
The budget reprioritizes which providers may receive federal family planning money in a way that effectively cuts off $1.4 million from Planned Parenthood. However, the budget does provide funding for antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which critics argue give women medically inaccurate information. In addition, the bill allows public funding for rape crisis clinics to be suspended if they counsel victims on abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1).
House Democrats only invited abortion-rights supporters to the hearing, which featured organizations that denounced the antiabortion provisions. State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D) led Democrats in calling the provisions "some of the most aggressive on women's health care in the nation," adding that the measures were not sufficiently vetted during the budget process.
Marc Parnes -- a gynecologist who attended the hearing said, "The practice of medicine is difficult enough" without having "additional hoops to jump through and worry about, because if we do them incorrectly we are jailed or hit with a large fine." He also said that the requirement to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion procedure is not "medically necessary" and increases health care costs.
Ohio State University law professor Marc Spindelman added that requiring the ultrasounds might violate patients' rights to refuse unwanted medical treatment.
Michael Gonidakis -- president of Ohio Right to Life -- called the Democratic lawmakers "total hypocrites" for not allowing abortion opponents to testify at the hearing. The group left documents that criticized Planned Parenthood and said that Democrats already had voted for a separate bill providing funding to rape crisis centers and restricting what counselors can say to patients (Columbus Dispatch, 9/19).