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Column: Abortion is safe, legal and available in Ohio ... for now

This op-ed by Chrisse France appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on Dec. 3, 2019.

When a person has made the decision to end a pregnancy, they should have access to the care they need. The good news is that abortion is currently safe, legal and available in Ohio after a judge blocked a harmful law that would have banned abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant, at just six weeks.

The bad news is that passage of that dangerous law had anti-abortion politicians’ desired effect anyway. Ohio’s cruel six-week ban has generated confusion and created a chilling effect on anyone seeking an abortion here.

And the even worse news is that efforts at banning abortion did not stop there. Gov. Mike DeWine and his allies at the Statehouse continue attempts to chip away at reproductive health care, harming the most vulnerable Ohioans.

Last month, under the cover of darkness, Ohio lawmakers introduced a total abortion ban, which would criminalize abortion care and punish doctors helping during miscarriages or fertility treatments. This follows a recently passed bill in the state Senate that forces doctors to share information about an unproven and potentially unsafe method to stop the process of medication abortion — even though these claims are rooted in junk science and cause harm to patients. Additionally, there is an effort to stop insurance from providing access to contraception — which would have the harshest effect on low-income Ohioans.

At Preterm, a nonprofit abortion clinic, we get calls daily from people asking whether they can get an abortion in the state. The answer is yes.

Recently, we heard from a woman who discovered she was pregnant around the same time Ohio’s six-week abortion ban was signed into law. She assumed she no longer had the option of considering abortion. Unfortunately, by the time she called Preterm, her window to get abortion care during the legal period was quickly closing. She still needed to get to the clinic, wait the mandatory 24 hours between appointments, receive her state-mandated counseling and take time off work or find childcare. Confusion around whether abortion is legal shortened her timeline, limited her options and increased her expenses. Although this abortion ban never took effect in Ohio, it harmed people like her.

The harmful legislative proposals follow a recent study from the Ohio Department of Health that found that there was less than 1% decline in the number of abortions performed in the state from 2017 to 2018. The report also found that the vast majority of abortion procedures happen early in pregnancy.

From my experience running a clinic that provides abortion care, I see two reasons for this decline. First, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Ohioans have better access to contraception through their insurance. While contraception coverage has expanded, people who need abortion care face even more significant barriers. Ohio’s wave of abortion restrictions and the question of whether it’s legal have forced people to travel out of state for an abortion or prevented care altogether. Some politicians are committed to disenfranchising Ohioans from accessing the abortion and comprehensive sexual health care that is their right.

Barriers to contraception and birth control are increasing in Ohio, too. Planned Parenthood was forced to close two of its Cincinnati clinics because of changes to the family planning program, also known as Title X, imposed by the Trump administration to cut off access to care.

While some politicians in Ohio’s Capitol might feign that these restrictions are about safety, it’s time to set the record straight: Abortion is safe. Limiting access hurts Ohioans. The recent study on abortion in Ohio confirms just how safe the procedure is, with only 0.1% of patients who had an abortion in 2018 experiencing a complication. Moreover, a recent study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine finds that medically unnecessary restrictions, such as waiting periods and insurance coverage bans, push the procedure out of reach and cause harm. Barriers make abortion more costly and time-consuming, and they disproportionately impact people of color, young people and low-income families.

No matter what your insurance status, where you live, how much money you make or what your family looks like, you should be trusted to make the right health care decisions for yourself, with a doctor you trust, at a clinic close to home. At Preterm, we trust Ohioans to make these decisions, but Ohio politicians don’t.

Today, abortion is safe, legal and available in Ohio, and we’re working alongside Ohioans across the state to keep it that way.


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