Two abortion clinics in Ohio have been forced to close over the past week, and a third is currently on the brink of shutdown. The most recent closures add to a growing list of clinics in the state that have shut down as a direct result of the new abortion restrictions that the GOP-led legislature enacted over the summer.
In June, Ohio Republicans attached several abortion-related provisions to a two-year state budget proposal, essentially hijacking the budget process in order to rush through anti-abortion policies very quickly. The budget was approved in less than two weeks, without leaving any time for public debate.
Now, under that new legislation, abortion clinics in the state are required to adhere to stringent and unnecessary standards in order to remain operating. They must obtain “transfer agreements” with local hospitals that will accept patients in cases of medical emergencies — a policy that the nation’s leading group of OB-GYNs opposes — but they’re not allowed to get them from public hospitals.
It’s essentially a policy that sets clinics up for failure. Ironically, because abortion is a very safe procedure with an incredibly low rate of complications, hospitals often refuse to enter into these type of arrangements with abortion clinics because they’re unnecessary. Similar laws in other states have forced abortion clinics to shut down after failing to get transfer agreements. Banning public hospitals from participating makes it that much more difficult for Ohio’s abortion clinics to stay afloat.
Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, referred to the new clinic standards as “a regulatory witch hunt.” She noted it’s obvious the new regulations aren’t actually about keeping patients safe. For instance, one of the abortion clinics in the state that has been forced to close because it couldn’t get a transfer agreement actually has “an exemplary record of medical safety.”
“It seems the problem isn’t clinics providing excellent care, but rather all the restrictions of abortion care making it more difficult for physicians to operate clinics in Ohio,” Copeland pointed out. “This move is an abuse of power motivated by pressure from Ohio Right to Life.”
And it will have serious consequences for women who live in the state. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the rush of clinic closures ultimately means that “Ohio women will have fewer places to terminate pregnancies than perhaps anytime since the years after the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973.” Residents in the state have taken up this concept as a rallying cry against the new budget, proclaiming that “we won’t go back” to a time when abortion rights were inaccessible.
But Ohio’s move to roll back the protections under Roe v. Wade fits into a larger national trend. Over the past several years, abortion clinics have been closing at a record pace and women’s reproductive access is under attack all over the country.
If women’s health advocates have their way, however, Ohio’s stringent new restrictions may eventually be reversed. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state’s new budget earlier this month, asserting that adding abortion-related provisions to the legislation actually broke the law. Ohio’s constitution requires legislation to adhere to a single subject, and the ACLU contends that new law isn’t allowed to be both about finances and abortion clinics.