May 5, 2015 — The number of abortion clinics and abortions in Ohio have decreased significantly since the enactment of several antiabortion-rights provisions in the state, according to a records analysis by the Associated Press.
According to the AP, Ohio since 2011 has implemented several abortion restrictions, including requirements (HB 59) that women undergo testing to detect a fetal heartbeat before having an abortion and "mak[e] it difficult or impossible" for clinics to obtain required transfer agreements with local hospitals (Carr Smyth, Associated Press, 5/3). In addition, the state passed a law (HB 78) that bans abortions at 24 weeks and requires physicians to perform tests to determine if a fetus is viable beginning at 20 weeks (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/28).
Further, abortion-rights opponents are trying to pass legislation (HB 69) banning abortion as early as six weeks' gestation (Associated Press, 5/3). The measure would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/26). Meanwhile, according to the AP, Ohio Right to Life and other abortion-rights opponents are working to implement additional abortion restrictions.
For the analysis, the AP reviewed state records on licensing and businesses.
According to the analysis, seven of Ohio's 16 abortion providers have closed or limited abortion services since 2011. Meanwhile, an eighth abortion provider located in Toledo, Ohio, remains in operation, but faces litigation that could close the clinic.
According to the AP, the number of closings in Ohio is second only to Texas, where 17 of the state's 40 abortion providers have closed since 2011. Meanwhile, the third most prominent example of such closures is Virginia, where two of the 20 abortion providers, including one of the state's busiest clinics, have closed under various abortion restrictions.
The AP analysis also found that the number of induced abortions in Ohio fell from 25,473 to 23,216 between 2012 and 2013, the same time period during which five of the abortion clinics either closed or limited abortion services. According to the AP, the 2013 figure marks the lowest level recorded since 1976, when the state started tracking such data, and fits into a "general downward trend" that started in the late 1990s.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said the decreasing number of abortions in the state is "a combination of a lot of things," including a reduced demand for abortion.
However, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said reduced demand for abortion was not a factor in the number of clinic closures. "If that were the case, and we've seen roughly half of our clinics close, the corollary you'd think would be we'd see roughly half the procedures -- and that's not the case," she said, adding, "These laws have all been about creating these false hurdles for clinics to have to jump through in order to provide safe, legal abortion care to their patients."
Copeland also noted that her organization has heard many stories from women who have had to travel long distances or go out of state to access abortion services.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, noted that the state has "for decades ... been incredibly conservative" on abortion. "It's one of the states people look to, to see what the next restriction is going to" be, she said (Associated Press, 5/3).