Access denied? Abortion clinics could close in Ohio

Access to abortion services could become more difficult for some Ohio women, after a last-minute provision was added to the Senate’s version of the state budget.

COLUMBUS – Lawmakers are hammering out the details of the final state budget this week, and some reproductive-health groups are concerned about an amendment restricting abortion access.

A measure added last week involves variances, which are transfer agreements between doctors instead of hospitals. Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says if the Ohio Department of Health fails to act on a variance request for 60 days, under the provision it would automatically be rejected and the clinic would have to close.

“We believe that is targeted towards clinics in Dayton and Cincinnati who have variances either pending or currently approved,” says Copeland. “The intention is to abuse the regulatory process to close these clinics without any due process.”

Supporters of the measure, including Ohio Right to Life, said it is needed to ensure abortion clinics are operated safely. Another last-minute provision applying a 30-mile limit to transfer agreements for abortion providers was removed from the Senate’s final budget.

According to Copeland, closing clinics will not result in fewer abortions, but will make obtaining the procedure more difficult and dangerous for Ohio women. She says reducing unintended pregnancies can decrease the need for abortions.

“That can be done by increasing access to contraception, increasing access to comprehensive sex education, increasing access to health care, to paid maternity leave, to time off to care for their children when they’re sick,” she says.

Copeland adds that when a woman decides she can’t go forward with a pregnancy, she’d “do about anything” to make that choice a reality – including traveling far distances.

“But what happens to the women who don’t have those resources,” asks Copeland. “Sadly, they sometimes turn to dangerous measures, and we have a grave concern about what happens to those women.”

A law was passed in 2013 requiring abortion clinics to enter into transfer agreements with private hospitals only. Copeland says several clinics have closed since then, and only about eight remain.

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