As they did two years ago, Ohio lawmakers want to use the new state budget to trample on women’s constitutional right to safe, legal abortion. If their medically unsupported anti-abortion provisions become law, they almost certainly would shut down the only clinic that performs abortions in Toledo. Gov. John Kasich must use his line-item veto to reject these extreme measures.
House and Senate negotiators inserted two key anti-abortion amendments in the compromise two-year budget that takes effect on Wednesday. One would require abortion clinics to get so-called transfer agreements with hospitals within 30 miles to handle emergency cases. The rule likely would shut down Capital Care Network, the last remaining abortion clinic in Toledo, which has a transfer agreement with the University of Michigan Health System, 50 miles away.
Lawmakers know this requirement has no basis in medicine. Medical authorities overwhelmingly agree that transfer agreements aren’t necessary because abortion is one of the safest medical procedures. Hospitals already are required to admit patients in emergencies.
But extremist lawmakers instead hope to use the measure to shut down abortion clinics across the state, as they did in the current budget. That law, which required abortion clinics to obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals, has shut down nearly half the clinics in the state.
The Kasich administration has been trying to close Capital Care Network, claiming that the University of Michigan health system is not local enough. A Lucas County judge ruled this month that the clinic would be allowed to stay open, arguing that state law is inconsistent with the constitutional right to end an unwanted pregnancy upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lawmakers want to use the proposed 30-mile rule to make that ruling irrelevant, and shutter Capital Care for good. The new budget includes a separate measure that would reject requests for variances that permit abortion clinics to stay open if the state does not approve such variances within two months.
Such requests often take many months to approve, because Ohio’s anti-abortion health department sits on them. The new measure could shut down clinics in Dayton and Cincinnati, and make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country with no abortion provider.
The budget bill’s restrictions could leave Ohio with just five abortion providers, and force even more women to cross state borders to exercise their constitutional rights. Hundreds of Ohio women each year, including many from the Toledo area, travel to Michigan to gain access to abortion care.
If Mr. Kasich signs the transfer agreement provision into law, the University of Toledo Medical Center should look at resuming its transfer agreement with Capital Care. UTMC had such an agreement with the clinic after the current budget law took effect, but university officials bowed to pressure from anti-abortion activists last year and dropped the deal.
Matters should not have to reach that point. The governor knows that the General Assembly’s anti-abortion extremism is out of step with Ohioans’ preferences and with women’s constitutional rights. As a self-described compassionate conservative, Mr. Kasich should defy his party’s cruel instincts, and affirm women’s right to make their own health-care choices.
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