The Columbus Dispatch reports that one more abortion clinic has closed this month, while two others are appealing their closure. These three clinics add to the two others that were closed earlier this year, leaving only nine abortion clinics in the entire state of Ohio.
These abortion clinics were closed for either health violations or the absence of a valid transfer agreement with an area hospital. However, the state budget, signed by the Ohio State Legislature and the governor, banned public hospitals from entering into transfer agreements with abortion clinics, making it significantly harder for clinics to continue operation by law. In addition, the budget prohibits doctors who have rights to practice at a public hospital from also working at an abortion clinic, and it includes amendments that limit federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, agrees: “It seems the problem isn’t clinics providing excellent care but rather all the restrictions of abortion care making it more difficult for physicians to operate clinics in Ohio.”
She continues, “This move is an abuse of power motivated by pressure from Ohio Right to Life, an anti-choice organization led by Gov. Kasich’s appointee to the State Medical Board, Mike Gonikadis. Kasich’s agenda is clear- to put politicians in charge of women’s personal, private medical decisions by closing every abortion clinic in this state, despite their incredible safety record.”
Ohio is able to pass conservative pro-life policies because it has a very Republican-leaning state legislature. Of the 99 representatives in the House, 59 are Republican and 40 are Democrat. In both caucuses, there are 11 women, so 18% of the Republicans in the House are women, and 27% of the Democrats in the House are women. We see an even larger discrepancy in the Senate, with 23 of the 33 Senators identifying with the Republican party, and 10 of the 33 Senators identifying with the Democratic party. Of the 23 Republicans, only 3 are women, making up 13%, and of the 10 Democrats, 5 are women, making up 50%.
The budget bill passed through the Senate with a 23-10 party-line vote, but after disagreements between the chambers, mostly concerning the rules for charter schools and teacher pay, the state legislature formed an all-male conference committee made up of 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats. Again, the budget passed with a party-line vote, 4-2.
These results clearly demonstrate the polarization in the state legislature and the power of the majority party to pass items on its own agenda without needing to appeal to any members of the minority party. As many Republicans have expressed pro-life political beliefs, a unified Republican majority party in both the House and the Senate has ultimately led to drastic changes to the availability of abortion clinics in the state.