What You Should Know About Abortion Access In Ohio Right Now

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In April, Ohio passed a law that bans abortion after about six weeks, and it's already prompted lawsuits and protests among reproductive rights activists. The law takes effect in July and has been challenged in court by the ACLU. But the state of abortion access in Ohio was already highly restrictive even before the most recent law was passed.

NARAL has deemed Ohio a "severely restricted" state with regard to reproductive rights, thanks to a series of state laws passed over the decades. These restrictions don't merely affect who can have abortions and when, but also how the procedure can be funded and which facilities are allowed to perform it.

To begin with, insurance plans in Ohio's health exchange are only allowed to cover abortion in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening pregnancies, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The same goes for health care plans offered to state employees.

And if a minor in Ohio wants an abortion, they must first obtain permission from at least one of their legal guardians or, alternatively, be granted a judicial bypass from a judge, according to the Women's Public Policy Network. Minors are only allowed to obtain a judicial bypass from judges in the county in which they live or in an adjacent county.

Even if a person in Ohio clears these hurdles and is thus allowed to have an abortion, there are still many more obstacles.

First, a pregnant person is required to attend a state-directed "counseling" session before having an abortion, the Guttmacher Institute reports, where they must listen to a description of the fetus or embryo's development at that stage in the pregnancy. Additionally, they are given a book on alternatives to abortion. Doctors are also required to check for a fetal cardiac activity, which typically requires an ultrasound, before performing an abortion; If the most recent law takes effect in July, the pregnant person won't be able to have an abortion if fetal cardiac activity is detected.

After all of this, a pregnant person must wait an addition 24 hours before actually having the procedure performed. As the Guttmacher Institute notes, this effectively means that they must make two trips to the clinic in question instead of one.

Ohio also imposes restrictions on which facilities are and aren't allowed to perform abortions. Clinics must be certified as ambulatory surgical centers, which requires that they undergo annual inspections by the state department of health and, additionally, obtain what the Women's Public Policy Network calls "medically unnecessary transfer agreements" from nearby hospitals. Public hospitals aren't allowed to perform abortions unless a pregnant person's life is in immediate danger, according to the Women's Public Policy Network.

Lastly, pregnant people who wish to take Mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill, are required to make no fewer than four doctor's visits to have the drug administered, according to the Women's Public Policy Network. This restriction was imposed in 2011, ostensibly to make medical abortions safer; however, a 2016 study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that the law had no tangible safety benefits, and was in fact associated with higher costs and more negative side-effects for women who took Mifepristone.

Ohio isn't the only state to pass onerous abortion restrictions in the last few months, and some proponents of the restrictions openly acknowledge that their goal is to convince the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Whether that will ultimately happen is anybody's guess; in the meantime, if you live in Ohio, here are list of abortion clinics operating in the state.