Ohio Abortion Restrictions Strain Providers, Limit Access for Patients

March 4, 2015 — Measures that restrict abortion in Ohio have made it harder for women in the state to access the procedure, NPR's "Shots" reports.

State Abortion Restrictions

Several antiabortion-rights laws have passed in the state since 2011. In that time, the number of clinics has dropped from 16 to eight. According to "Shots," some of the closings are connected to the laws, while one was related to safety violations and another was for business reasons.

One of the state's antiabortion-rights measures requires women to consult with a physician in person and then wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. As a result, women must either stay overnight near the clinic or make two trips, "Shots" reports (Ludden, "Shots," NPR, 3/3).

Another Ohio law (HB 78) bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks. The law states that a physician cannot perform an abortion between 20 weeks and 24 weeks unless a woman's life is at risk or the physician has determined that the fetus cannot survives outside the womb (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).

In addition, provisions in the state budget require abortion clinics to secure a transfer agreement with a private hospital and prohibit them from making such arrangements with public hospitals (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/1/13). According to "Shots," many private hospitals are hesitant to grant such agreements to abortion providers because they are Catholic-affiliated or for other reasons.

Restrictions Strain Providers, Limit Abortion Access

Kellie Copeland, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said that the clinic restrictions are wearing on providers. Specifically, she noted that the 20-week testing requirement has driven some clinics to stop offering abortions after that time frame, while the transfer agreement rules have placed clinics "in this Catch-22 that really doesn't have anything to do with patient care."

Separately, Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm, an abortion clinic in Cleveland, said the caseload at her clinic has increased by 10% since the restrictions began. "We are more fully booked," she said.

France also noted the clinic is seeing women who travel from farther away, as clinics in locations closer to them have closed, "Shots" reports. She added that finding child care "and transportation are often big issues" for patients trying to comply with the 24-hour mandatory delay requirement.

Further, some women are leaving the state to obtain abortion care, as Ohio restricts the use of medication abortion, "Shots" reports. According to "Shots," roughly one-fourth of women who chose to have an abortion opt for a medication abortion.

Copeland noted that abortion restrictions will not stop women from seeking to end their pregnancies. "At no time in history, nowhere around the globe did outlawing abortion mean women stopped having them," she said, adding, "What it meant is [abortions] became dangerous."

Antiabortion-Rights Efforts Continue

Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights advocates have begun discussing several new abortion restrictions, including a stricter 20-week ban, a measure that would ban abortion in the case of a Down syndrome diagnosis and a fetal "heartbeat" bill (HB 69) that could ban the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, "Shots" reports.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said, "Our goal ultimately is to live in a society where abortion is no longer even considered" ("Shots," NPR, 3/3).