Ohio Enacted Some of the Nation’s Toughest Abortion Restrictions—What Now?

Because Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to line-item veto any of the five anti-choice amendments tucked into the massive state budget for the 2014 fiscal year, the most vulnerable Ohioans will likely find themselves with less access to family planning services, health screenings, and abortion providers and undergoing medically unnecessary ultrasounds. At the same time, they will see their tax dollars used to support religious crisis pregnancy centers that are intended to convince women not to seek abortions. Meanwhile, centers that help individuals who have been sexually assaulted are in danger of losing funding if they refer for or even mention the possibility of an abortion.

Although disappointed, reproductive rights groups are already looking ahead as they try to come to terms with this new landscape.

The budget items themselves, although signed into law, will not go into effect for 90 days, giving the groups most likely to be affected and their allies some time to evaluate their options. Some of those options may include fundraising, litigation, and preparing in advance for the 2014 election.

“We’re diligently working to determine the ‘what’s next’ here in Ohio,” Celeste Glasgow Ribbins, director of media, marketing, communication for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, told RH Reality Check via email. “We’re examining our options and looking at, for example, whether we can talk to folks at the federal level providing grants directly to the family planning providers instead of sending the money to the states.”

The federal government is increasingly foregoing local governing bodies and giving Title X funds directly to clinics to support lower-income and uninsured individuals as more defunding bills make it into law. This is true in cities like Memphis and even entire states, such as Texas. With that precedent already set, Ohio could be the next to follow suit.

Family planning clinics could be rescued through intervention from the federal level, but that’s not the case with abortion clinics, which now will come under more direct scrutiny by a state Board of Health (which includes Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, as one of its members).

The new rule requiring a transfer agreement to a hospital that is not publicly funded is likely to close the only provider left in Toledo. The other clinic in the city, Center for Choice, shut down last month after the proposed amendment threatened to strip it of its license.

It’s unclear how many other providers will have to find new arrangements now that they can no longer get a transfer agreement with a public hospital, and doctors from public hospitals will be unable to testify on behalf of clinics that require variances from the law. What is clear is that the director of the Department of Health will be able to scrutinize any clinic for the smallest of provocations, a prospect that leaves many providers feeling uneasy.

“Mike Gonidakis and Ohio Right to Life have an enormous amount of access and power at the Ohio Department of Health both because of Mr. Gonidakis’s place on the Ohio State Medical Board, but also because of their very cozy relationship with Governor Kasich,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland told RH Reality Check. “This relationship and this access has already had a chilling effect on medical providers across the state. People are worried that there is going to be a witch hunt, that they will use their power in a way that wasn’t intended, that they will find a minor infraction that doesn’t impact health care and that they will use that as an excuse to close women’s health centers.”

The potential closure of both family planning and abortion clinics is a big concern for reproductive health groups and activists in the state. “Our concern is that with clinics closing, whether they be family planning clinics or abortion clinics, is that cancer will go undetected, that women who need health care will resort to conducting procedures on themselves or relying on medications that they get over the internet or things that might not be safe,” said Copeland. “Our concern is without access to licensed quality medical providers … women’s health will suffer, and women will pay the price for this extremist agenda.”

Ohio lawmakers’ anti-choice agenda has drawn national attention from reproductive rights supporters who have been energized by the recent battles in Texas and other states. Copeland said, to individuals outside Ohio wondering how they can help, that right now the needs are simple: money, pressure, and coverage. She urged those who can to “get out their checkbook and fund the fight,” with donations to groups that are fighting the legislation, abortion funds that assist pregnant people in need, or family planning clinics whose doors may close if their funding is cut. The efforts to contact Gov. Kasich by phone, email, Facebook, and Twitter should continue as well, she said, noting that the governor neither answered direct questions about the anti-choice provisions prior to the budget signing nor took questions on them after he refused to veto.

“The really important thing that activists can do right now is make sure that Ohio voters know that Governor Kasich, who claims to have a singular focus on jobs and economy, has become the worst anti-choice governor in Ohio history,” said Copeland. “He is now sending more restrictions on access to family planning clinics, abortion care, and even information than any other governor in Ohio history. He may think that he doesn’t work for the taxpayers of Ohio, but we know better, and we have an absolute right and responsibility to tell him exactly what these measures he signed into law are going to do to Ohio women and their families.”

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  • fiona64

    What’s probably happening (and I realize that this is entirely speculative) is a whole bunch of Ohio women going out and getting Plan B while they still can.

    What will happen is that, as always, women who have resources to travel in order to obtain a full range of health care (including contraception) will be able to do so, while the underprivileged are forced to do without access.

  • Katy David

    So encouraging to see a state take a brave stance against abortion. Yay! Clearly Ohio is a progressive and caring state, thank you Ohio for leading by example and protecting little kids.

    • HeilMary1

      Another pompous mother killer with Fetal Idolatry Derangement Syndrome!

      • Katy David

        No need to be impolite, HeilMary. An I am a mom and do not believe in “mother killing” whatever that is. I think moms deserve support.

        • Lannon Unick

          Sweetie . . . when she says “mother killer,” she’s referring to aspects of the bill that could create a Savita-type situation, where doctors in an emergency situation such as a car accident or an infection or a cancer diagnosis would have to wait until the pregnant woman’s life was “in danger enough” to enable them to perform an abortion to save her. Beyond the obvious problems with this (what if doctors misjudge that and the woman dies, like in Galway?) there is also the fact that this is effectively taking away a woman’s ability to decide whether she is ready to be a mother. By that, I don’t just mean abortion, I mean that the same clinics that provide abortion services are also the places that are MOST DEDICATED TO PREVENTING ABORTION by providing accurate information about reproductive and sexual health as well as birth control, STD tests and cancer screenings. The Planned Parenthood where I lived in Wooster, OH also provided neonatal care, parenting classes and worked closely with the local shelter for abused women. I regularly have my yearly well-woman check-ups at the Planned Parenthood near me and have passed “christian” and “caring” protesters out front who have NEVER stepped forward to do even a fraction of the work for the community that Planned Parenthood does. And Ohio shouldn’t take tax dollars away from organizations that serve the community and give them to (typically) expressly religious “clinics” that refuse to give women any useful type of service or information. Separation of Church and State, anyone?

          • Katy David

            Lana, you raise some valid points. I don’t think anyone wants to see women die.. personally I think there are (narrow) set of medical circumstances that justify it, that Irish case is a perfect example. But far more common is abortion on demand. Women have a right to decide before they get pregnant whether they want to be a mother (and you raise a good point, contraception should be everywhere – I would like to see PP closed and replaces with services that offer birth control, education, parenting and adoption help, etc. After a woman is pregnant, there is a baby involved and it is wrong to sop a growing new life, even if small, just because a mom “doesn’t feel ready yet” or some other personal reason. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, it’s just part of life, and it’s OK. Pregnancy is scary but if abortion were taken out of the equation, women would adjust and pick parenting or adoption – ethical choices. And it’s not a religion thing… there are plenty of pro-life people who are not religious at all (I am one of them). I used to be pro-choice but became bro-life when I saw my son at his first ultrasound and I could see that he was already a recognizable little baby waving his arms and legs around. That’s why I stand up for the little children, no woman-hating here :-)

          • fiona64

            I would like to see PP closed and replaces with services that offer birth control, education, parenting and adoption help, etc.

            The vast majority of PP services (97 percent) are providing well-woman check-ups, contraception and education. It’s not within their purview to provide “parenting and adoption help,” but they do well-baby check-ups as well. For a great many underprivileged women, they are the only source of reproductive health care available. Closing them down in order to satisfy your distaste for three percent of their services is pretty ridiculous.

            BTW, I became pro-choice after learning about my mother’s illegal abortion in the 1960s. She got rubella during a crucial stage of fetal development. After discussion with her obstetrician (the same doctor who delivered me), in which he explained the 99 percent chance that the illness would affect the fetus so drastically that the resulting infant would be blind, deaf and mentally disabled, she and my dad decided to have the pregnancy terminated. The obstetrician, in his own words, knew “someone who would help them.” (And please, before you throw out the adoption canard again … tell me, how many people do you think are lined up to adopt a blind, deaf, mentally disabled infant? There are 100K children available for adoption in this country right now, according to AFCARS, and most of them will age out of the system without ever having permanent homes.)

            How did I find out about this? Well, I was a bible-thumping, anti-choice teen who duly informed my mother that anyone who had an abortion was a murderer. My own mother’s situation was a rather enlightening one for me.

            My parents are elderly now. I will be 50 on my next birthday; had my mother carried that pregnancy to term, my elderly parents would be dealing with a 49-year-old blind, deaf, mentally disabled infant in an adult’s body. The quality of life for that infant/child/adult, and the entire rest of the family, would have been *non-existent.* Institutionalizing that individual would probably have bankrupted us.

            I am grateful every day for my mom’s doctor, who was brave enough to tell her the truth about what was going on and to help her and my dad make the best decision for *them.*

            I would equally support a woman’s decision to gestate a pregnancy under the self-same circumstances. You see, I lack the hubris to decide how much risk another person should be willing to assume.

            That’s why I stand up for a woman’s right to self-determination.

          • Arekushieru

            Adoption and parenting are not the ‘panaceas’ you seem to think they are. If they WERE, children would not be abused by their biological or adoptive parents. In FACT, adoption and relinquishment are far more traumatizing for many women and the resulting child than an abortion would have been. As others have stated, most children age out of the system without ever being adopted. Foster homes have little to no oversight, and many children may end up being abused in the system. That you would think that is preferable to abortion is disheartening, to say the LEAST.

            A fetus is NOT a baby. And pregnancy is FAR more than just ‘inconvenient’. If it WEREN’T, after all, pregnancy would NOT be the second leading cause of death for women, WORLDWIDE.

            Some women cannot take hormonal contraceptives. Sometimes contraceptives fail even with PERFECT use.

            Do you think that someone who is being raped should just go along with it, because, sometimes, things just don’t go as planned, it’s a part of life, and it’s ok? If not, you ARE a hypocrite and a misogynist, and really never WERE Pro-Choice, because you obviously failed to grasp the whole concept BEHIND the movement. If yes, you are sick.

            So, are you saying that it’s okay to take the life of anyone that isn’t growing or a new life? That’s not Pro-‘Life’ and the complete OPPOSITE of what Pro-Choice supports. So, yet another indicator that you never really grasped the concept behind the Pro-Choice movement.

            Here’s the third and final indicator: Your implied ASSumption that Pro-Choice people never continue pregnancies. Hint: My biological MOTHER is Pro-Choice. Wanna know why? Not because she had an abortion (which she did) but because she CHOSE (*gasp*) to have me and my brother.

            And, yes, you are a woman-hater, if you want to deny women the same rights as everyone else. Specifically, the right to determine WHO uses their body and when and how it is used, REGARDLESS of level of dependency, with ONGOING, informed and explicit consent. And, yes, you are a woman-hater if you deny a woman the same rights as everyone else simply because an accident of biology makes fetal life dependent on a uterus. It enables sexism, is misogyny and, yes, WOMAN-HATING.

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  • marie72

    I dont agree with late-term abortions but all these extra regulations make no sense at all…

    • Arekushieru

      You don’t agree with late-term abortions that save women’s lives? Then you’re not Pro-‘life’.