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Stats And Stories On Restrictive Ohio Abortion Laws

During the past four years, Ohio legislators have passed several laws restricting abortion. But questions about the effect those laws are having on women  depends on who is asked. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles explains.

If you talk to opponents of Ohio’s new restrictions on abortion, they’ll tell you those laws are forcing Ohio’s women into going out of state for abortions and care for difficult pregnancies. The Capital Care Center in Toledo provides abortions. Marlena Ainslie works with that center. She says the state’s 24-hour consent law, legislation that requires a woman to receive in person counseling 24 hours before getting an abortion, is a big issue for women in Ohio. She says that law, which was passed in 2000 but has been amended to be more restrictive in recent years, is prompting many Ohio women to leave the state.   
“That means that women who want an abortion need to arrange for two days off of work, two days of child care, two days of transportation because they need a driver and are having a surgical procedure,” Ainslie says. “And in Michigan, they don’t have that law. It’s a one day process in Michigan. So countless women call up to our clinic.  They say is this a two day process in your clinic? I say yes, it’s a state law. They say, okay, I’m going to Michigan.” Ainslie estimates four out of ten women who call inquiring about abortions at the clinic end up going to Michigan to get those procedures.  
Kellie Copeland with NARAL/Pro-Choice Ohio says doctors throughout Ohio are telling her they are advising women with complicated pregnancies to get care out of state if they need abortion services. And she says poor women who rely on Medicaid often don’t have that option at all. Copeland says doctors in Ohio are often put in the position of waiting until women get life threatening complications such as sepsis due to fetal demise. “Sepsis is not something that is easily fought,” Copeland says. “Something that 30% of people who have it don’t survive it. We should not be making women wait until they are sick enough to die to get health care.”  
But supporters of those new laws say they are making women’s health care safer.  Katie Franklin with Ohio Right to Life says newer laws that restrict the way abortion clinics operate, like the ones that make sure clinics have valid transfer agreements and meet stricter health department guidelines, make them safer. “Last year, 1000 of the abortions that were reported in the Ohio abortion report took place on women outside of the state,” Franklin says. “So while, yes, women could be leaving the state, the report shows women are also coming to Ohio.” And she says complicated pregnancies account for a very small number of abortions in Ohio.  
As far as the concern that poor women don’t have the option for abortion, Mike Gonidakis with Ohio Right to Life says when you look at the state health department’s annual abortion reports, that is simply not true. “A vast majority, actually all of the zip codes that are given, demonstrate, especially as it relates to the 42% of abortion on African American women, they are located in or around historically poverty driven areas like East Cleveland, East Columbus and parts of Cincinnati,” Gonidakis says.  
Gonadakis says abortions in Ohio are at a 37-year low. In addition to new laws, he attributes changes in attitudes, increased health care options, and more accessibility to birth control.   
A recent national study by the Brookings Institute shows women who are under 100 percent of the poverty levels are twice as likely to have unprotected sex as women who are 400% or more over the poverty level. That study also shows the abortion rate for women in that higher income bracket is 32% while less than 9% of women in that lowest income bracket have abortions. The state’s abortion report doesn’t list incomes but it shows during the past two years shows more than 75% of the women getting abortions in Ohio lack college degrees.  


Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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