Over the summer, Ohio lawmakers enacted tough new abortion restrictions that are forcing an increasing number of clinics to close their doors. The ACLU is currently suing to block the most stringent provisions of the new law, but while that legal challenge proceeds, many of the clinics in the state are struggling to remain open.
And that’s already having a direct impact on women’s access to reproductive health care in the state. As Cleveland.com reports, some abortion clinics in neighboring Michigan are noticing an influx of patients from Ohio, as women are increasingly unable to terminate a pregnancy in their home state.
Even before the new anti-abortion law was enacted this summer, Michigan’s abortion policies were less restrictive than Ohio’s, so some women would travel there for medication abortions and late-term abortions. But Lara Chelian, who manages the appointment center for Northland Family Center in Westland, MI, told Cleveland.com that the number of out-of-state patients is rapidly growing.
The new restrictions have already closed most of the abortion clinics in Toledo, and threaten to shutter the last clinic remaining in Ohio’s fourth-largest city. If that happens, the closest clinic for women in Toledo would be Northland’s Westland location. One of the Toledo clinics that’s already been forced to close its doors is now redirecting its patients there.
Now, up to half of the patients visiting Northland’s clinic in Westland are from Ohio, and Chelian said the company — which operates three clinics in Michigan — is trying to hire additional staff to accommodate all of the new appointments. “We’re glad that we’re here and are able to help the women that are in need of these services,” Chelian said.
Employees at other abortion clinics in Michigan told Cleveland.com that they haven’t seen that kind of dramatic increase in Ohio patients yet, but they’re bracing for heavier patient loads in the future as the reality of the Buckeye State’s new restrictions sets in.
Other state’s experiences provide a precedent in this area. Clinics in Maryland have seen a rush of out-of-state patients, for instance, as surrounding states like Pennsylvania and Virginia continue to impose tighter regulations on abortion. The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) most recent data on abortion care shows particularly high numbers of out-of-state procedures performed in Alabama, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Rhode Island. And since those CDC numbers are from 2009, it’s not difficult to extrapolate that — thanks to the recent rush of abortion restrictions — women’s access to reproductive care has narrowed even further since then, including in some of the states where out-of-state patients used to go to seek care.
Indeed, abortion access in some red states may now be even worse than it was before Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973. State-level restrictions are forcing women to drive farther to get to a clinic and make multiple trips back to that clinic. For many individuals — especially the low-income women who don’t have the flexibility to take off work or the means to pay for childcare or transportation — that’s too much to surmount.
Abortion opponents typically make the case that these type of clinic restrictions are necessary to ensure patients’ health and safety. The president for Ohio Right to Life even suggested that the recent anti-abortion legislation has simply inspired more women to carry their pregnancies to term. But the data shows that’s not true. Women who have decided they want to terminate a pregnancy are typically unable to be persuaded from that choice. And if they’re desperate enough, they’ll seek out illegal, and considerably less safe, methods in order to do it.