State government’s relentless onslaught against reproductive rights should be one of the greatest scandals in Ohio politics. But few Ohioans appear to have any idea of the damage their elected officials are doing to abortion access.
The Statehouse strategy has been to sneak in quietly, without public input, medically unsupported laws that are aimed at shutting down clinics across Ohio that perform abortions. Last week, state senators tried to add a provision at the last minute to their version of the new two-year budget that would have shut down the last remaining abortion clinic in Toledo.
The measure was removed after a public outcry, but lawmakers have added other budget amendments aimed at restricting abortion and family planning that are nearly as bad. They must be thrown out or vetoed by Gov. John Kasich if lawmakers include them.
Capital Care Network became the only abortion clinic in Toledo after a state law in 2013 required abortion providers to get so-called transfer agreements with local hospitals to handle emergencies. The law does nothing to improve women’s safety, since hospitals already are required to admit emergency cases.
But the law had the effect of shutting down nearly half of Ohio’s abortion clinics, which is exactly what lawmakers intended it to do. Many abortion providers can’t get transfer agreements because hospitals face intense pressure from anti-abortion activists to deny them.
Senators removed a budget amendment last week that would have required abortion providers to get transfer agreements with hospitals 30 miles away or closer. It likely would have shut down Capital Care Network, which has secured an agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, 50 miles away.
Late last week, Lucas County Judge Myron Duhart released his long-awaited decision on Capital Care Network’s dispute with the state Health Department, ruling that the clinic would be allowed to remain open over the objections of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The Kasich administration has been trying to shut down the clinic for a year, claiming the UM hospital is not close enough.
Senators also inserted a measure into their budget bill that would automatically reject variances that permit abortion clinics to stay open if the state does not approve such variances within 60 days. The variances often take months to approve and are deliberately ignored by Ohio’s anti-choice health department.
The latter measure is aimed at shutting down clinics in Dayton and Cincinnati, Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, told The Blade’s editorial page.
The Senate added these rules to the budget without debate or public input, because lawmakers know most Ohioans don’t support such Draconian restrictions on abortion. The reckless provisions could invite the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Ohio’s and other states’ unconstitutional abortion restrictions.
The high court ruled in Roe vs. Wade in 1973 that women have a constitutional right to end an unwanted pregnancy, but extremist lawmakers in Ohio and across the country have ignored that decision. Many women must travel long distances, and cross state borders, to exercise their constitutional rights.
If lawmakers want to open a debate about abortion laws, they ought to do so honestly, not by inserting 11th-hour amendments and hoping Ohioans won’t notice. Their dead-of-night efforts to shut down abortion access must end.
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