At the very end of June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) approved a two-year budget that included several serious attacks on reproductive rights, including a provision that places harsh restrictions on abortion clinics. Just one month later, those abortion-related amendments to the new budget are doing exactly what they were intended to do: forcing clinics to close their doors.
One abortion clinic in Toledo, the Center for Choice, shut down in mid-June after failing to meet the new requirements. And a second Toledo-area clinic, Capital Care Women’s Center, is now facing the same fate. After both clinics close, the fourth most populous city in Ohio won’t have a single abortion provider.
Abortion opponents claim that regulating clinics is an important method of keeping their patients safe. But medical professionals, including the nation’s leading group of OB-GYNs, are opposed to this type of misleading legislation. Doctors point out these politically-motivated laws don’t actually do anything to make abortion care any safer.
They’re also often specifically designed to set up abortion clinics for failure. Under Ohio’s new budget, abortion clinics are required to have “transfer agreements” with local hospitals that will accept patients in cases of medical emergencies. Public universities are specifically forbidden from entering into those agreements. Since the two Toledo clinics used to have that relationship with public hospitals, they’ve been unable to renew their contracts. And ironically, since abortion clinics’ patients hardly ever need to go to the hospital — abortion is an incredibly safe procedure with a much lower rate of complication than giving birth — it’s usually difficult for clinics to find hospitals that will agree to enter into these contracts with them in the first place.
It gets worse. Some abortion clinics in the state have obtained waivers in place of their transfer agreements, which has allowed them to continue operating under the new law. But Ohio’s budget also includes a separate provision that gives the the director of the state’s health department the power to rescind those waivers at any time for any reason. Some women’s health advocates in Ohio warn that, if anti-abortion state officials are allowed to make those type of decisions based on their own personal beliefs, more clinics may be forced to close after losing their waivers.
Indirectly restricting access to abortion by targeting clinics is an increasingly popular anti-choice tactic. The same month that Ohio’s budget passed, the Texas legislature approved a similar law that will shut down an estimated 90 percent of the abortion clinics in the Lone Star State. Legal challenges to these type of laws have successfully blocked them in some states, as an increasing number of federal judges have agreed that it’s “nearly impossible” for abortion clinics to comply with them.