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The last ten years have seen unprecedented pro-life momentum in Ohio. Over the last decade, twenty-two pro-life initiatives have been signed into law. Supportive measures such as the Parenting and Pregnancy Support Act provided $7.5 million through the state of Ohio’s biennial budget for underprivileged moms and their babies.[i] Safety regulations, such as requiring abortion facilities to hold transfer agreements with local hospitals (the same as any other ambulatory surgical facility), closed dangerous loopholes and protected women from suffering further abortion-induced harm. Increased support and increased safety are easily a net positive for women across Ohio, as is a 31% percent decrease in abortions over that same period.[ii]
A recent study from The Ohio State University, however, takes a less optimistic- if not predictable- view of Ohio’s pro-life advances and the resulting downward trend in abortions, particularly in rural areas. The study, entitled Abortion Access in Ohio’s Changing Legislative Context, uses the current downward trend in abortions in Ohio to assert that because of Ohio’s legal advancements in protecting women and their unborn children, women in rural areas have less access to abortion and therefore, disparate health outcomes. These discrepancies of health outcomes are evidenced, according to these researchers, by disproportionately lower abortion rates in rural areas and abortions committed at later gestations. Two particular regions of the state are identified in the study: Lima, Ohio, and southeastern Ohio as a whole.
In the latter, the study points out that abortion rates fell by a greater amount from 2010-2018 in comparison to other geographical regions in Ohio.[iii] However, a quick look at a map provided by researchers, which tracked clinic closures during that same period, reveals an interesting omission: southeastern Ohio had no abortion clinics, to begin with. Additionally, the majority of abortion clinic closures during the study time period were not even the facilities in closest geographic proximity to southeastern Ohio.[iv]
A quick look at health inspection and safety compliance history of the clinics that were closed, however, casts a different light on Abortion Access’s concerns for women’s safety.
Take for instance Capital Care Network, a local chain of abortion facilities, which in 2010 had facilities operating in Lima, Akron, Toledo, and Columbus.[iv] Within several years, three out of the four facilities had closed their doors or merged with another clinic, with the exception of the Toledo facility which continued to operate even after its surgical abortion license was revoked in March of 2019. Several weeks before, a health inspection had uncovered a myriad of violations including exam tables held together with duct tape, unsecured narcotics, and usage of patient’s blood without their consent.[v]
At Capital Care Network’s Akron facility, a similar health inspection had also uncovered numerous violations which included expired disinfectant, failure to secure informed consent from patients, drugs stored and administered improperly, and the facility’s state and federal licenses expired by one and two years, respectively.[vi] Consequently, the facility, called Capital Care of Cuyahoga Falls “opted to close rather than correct the issues.”[vii] With such troubles plaguing Capital Care’s facilities across the state, it stands to reason that their facility in Lima, which Abortion Access singles out as one of the more significant clinic closures to Ohio’s rural populations, was most likely not exempt from its sister clinics’ systemic health and safety issues.
Neither, it seems, were the rest of Ohio’s soon-to-close abortion facilities, which displayed similar incompetence in ensuring the safety of the women who came through their doors. Numerous health code violations, failure to obtain proper licensing, and failure to obtain transfer agreements local hospitals, were an all-too-common theme in Ohio’s clinic’s closures. Center for Choice, another facility in northwest Ohio, was found upon a health inspection to have operating room equipment with both rust and mold, IV bags with expired medication, and over 40 syringes filled with a liquid that was not immediately identifiable.[vi]
The Abortion Access researchers seem convinced that women in rural Ohio are suffering from these clinic closures. But if these clinics closed due to their failure to come even close to meeting common safety regulations, it seems uncertain that these are the type of facilities anyone- regardless of their stance on abortion- should even want for the women of Ohio.
One thing is for certain: abortion rates in Ohio are dropping and have been for nearly a decade. Even the pro-abortion side, which likes to claim that abortion rights in Ohio are supported and even popular, are compelled to concede to the facts. What they are not willing to concede is why. In addition to flaunting a shocking disregard for any type of safety measures, Abortion Access credits increased access to birth control for declining abortion rates.
If one is willing to do the work, it is not difficult to dispute that claim. According to Ohio’s Induced Abortion Reports from 2011-2018 (2010’s report didn’t record birth control statistics), more than 1 in 5 women who had abortions in Ohio were using some type of contraception at the time of conception, but that ratio went down with nearly every successive year.[vii] Since this number does not include the sizable group of women who didn’t divulge whether they were using contraception, the number could be even higher.
Given the changing political landscape in favor of protecting life which prompted researchers to conduct this study, it seems unlikely that contraception could cause such a significant reduction in abortion rates in rural Ohio. Commonsense pro-life laws, which aim to protect women have clearly had an immense impact in eliminating some abortions.
Abortion Access in Ohio’s Changing Legislative Landscape raises some important questions surrounding abortion in Ohio, but not only the ones they wanted to raise. In a world where women in crisis are constantly being co-opted by an abortion industry who claims to speak on their behalf even as they fight against common-sense safety measures, the question begs to be asked: should the abortion industry be awarded the good faith to attribute motives to the women of Ohio as well? Are we to see women as voiceless pawns in the greater battle for abortion, or as individuals who deserve to be afforded, at the very least, basic safety standards and the agency to choose life? Based on Abortion Access’s bias against a culture of life and their defense of substandard facilities, it seems that the answer is purely rhetorical. To them, an unsafe abortion is better than no abortion.
Director of Legislative Affairs at Ohio Right to Life
[i] Deeter, Ben, and Rick Rouan . “New Budget Earmarks $7.5 Million of Ohio Taxpayers’ Money for Pregnancy Centers.” The Columbus Dispatch, 26 July 2019. The article may be viewed here- https://www.dispatch.com/news/20190726/new-budget-earmarks-75-million-of-ohio-taxpayers-money-for-pregnancy-centers
[ii] “Abortion Reports.” Odh.ohio.gov, Ohio Department of Health, odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/explore-data-and-stats/published-reports/data-and-stats-abortion-reports.
[iii] Norris, Alison H., et al. “Abortion Access in Ohio’s Changing Legislative Context, 2010–2018.” American Journal of Public Health, 2020, doi:10.2105/ajph.2020.305706. The article may be viewed here- https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305706
[iv] A PDF from The Ohio State University shows a map of abortion facilities in Ohio from 2010-2019. It can be viewed here- https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/8/58606/files/2020/05/Map-with-abortion-clinic-changes-in-Ohio-2010-2019-1.pdf
[v] “Capital Care Network (Toledo Women's Center).” Check My Clinic, checkmyclinic.org/clinics/capital-care-network/.
[vi] Candisky, Cathrine, et al. “Restrictions Forcing a Few Abortion Clinics to Close.” Akron Beacon Journal, 28 July 2013. The article may be viewed here - https://www.beaconjournal.com/content/stories/local/2013/07/28/restrictions-forcing-a-few-clinics-to-close.html
[vii] 9, Cecile Richards stated on February, et al. “PolitiFact - Planned Parenthood President Says Half of Ohio's Abortion Centers Shut down under Gov. John Kasich.” @Politifact, www.politifact.com/factchecks/2016/feb/22/cecile-richards/planned-parenthoods-ceo-says-half-ohios-abortion-c/.