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Columbus is the latest Ohio city to take steps to blunt the effect of abortion ban

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Andy Chow
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Demonstrators gather to protest against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.

Columbus is the latest city in Ohio to come up with a plan to fight back against the new statewide ban that prevents abortion at the point fetal heart activity can be detected. That happens around six weeks into pregnancy, often before women know they are even pregnant.

Doctors who perform abortions after that point can be charged with a felony and lose their state license to practice medicine. But the ban doesn't criminalize people who get abortions so many are going to neighboring states, often with the help of abortion advocacy groups.

Liz Brown, president pro tempore of Columbus City Council, said many women are finding access to abortion to be difficult, especially low-income or minority women who might lack means to go to another state. So, she said a vote will be taken at Monday's meeting to allow the city to give $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the Ohio Women's Alliance.

"That million dollars will go toward things like travel, lodging, child care, lost wages — financial barriers that get between a person and the abortion that they need," Brown said.

In addition, Brown, a Democrat, said the city plans to give a $26,500 contract to Pro-Choice Ohio to help the city understand the kind of "false and misleading information" that might be coming from pregnancy distress centers and other clinics that seek to draw in pregnant women in need then try to convince them to continue their pregnancies.

Beth Vanderkooi, executive director of the Greater Columbus Right to Life, criticized the council for this move. She said the council isn't allowing enough time and opportunity for the public to weigh-in on the expenditure. She calls the effort "a massive overstep."

"This is just too extreme, it is too rushed, and it is too much of an overstep." Vanderkooi said.

Vanderkooi called the threat to investigate pregnancy health centers "outrageous." She said those centers are providing important services to thousands of pregnant women by giving them baby supplies, prenatal care and more. And she said those centers were at the forefront of helping to provide baby formula to infants during the recent supply shortage.

"Pregnancy centers were providing thousands, probably millions of nutritious meals to babies who otherwise may not have been able to get the formula they need," Vanderkooi said.

Columbus also plans to de-prioritize enforcement of Ohio's new abortion ban. Recently Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, both Democrats, signed onto a letter with dozens or prosecutors and city attorneys throughout the nation, saying they won't seek charges for those who perform or pursue abortions.

Ohio abortion reports in recent years show more than half of all abortions in Ohio were performed in Franklin and Cuyahoga counties.

Brown said the reality is the city has to take action to help women who want abortions.

"We are here to make sure you can access care safely and legally despite what your gerrymandered legislature is trying to do to you," Brown said.