‘Not Our Ohio:’ Reproductive rights advocates call for DeWine vetoes of health measures

By: - June 30, 2021 12:50 am

Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s Southwest Ohio region, explains concerns about the newly-passed state budget at a Tuesday press conference. Members of reproductive rights groups throughout the state say some budget provisions make dangerous cuts to medical care that would impact already marginalized Ohioans. Photo by Susan Tebben.

Leaders of reproductive rights groups and abortion-providing health clinics say some of the most dangerous provisions of the Ohio budget survived revisions by both the House and Senate.

Joining with existing laws that exclude abortion clinics from receiving state funding, the budget passed late Monday night includes provisions to restrict ambulatory surgical facility physicians, a clause to allow medical professionals to pick and choose patient care.

“This is not our Ohio, and not our budget,” said Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, at a Tuesday press conference following the budget approval.

In the budget that passed the House with an 82-13 vote and was approved by the Senate 32 to 1, the legislature kept a Senate-added provision in the Ohio Department of Health’s budget regarding ambulatory surgical facilities (ASFs), which include facilities that provide abortion services.

The provision amends existing law on written medical transfer agreements, requiring that a consulting physician for an ASF actively practice clinical medicine within 25 miles of the facility. The physician must also have admitting privileges at a hospital within the same distance.

“There is no medically necessary reason for this amendment and for all of these amendments,” said Kersha Deibel, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood for the Southwest Ohio region. “This amendment aims to shut down all abortion providers in Southwest Ohio and push essential health care out of reach for already struggling communities.”

While abortion providers and advocates say the budget further cuts them off from funding for medical care, the budget includes targeted funding for the “Parenting and Pregnancy Program,” a project created within Ohio Revised Code to “promote childbirth, parenting and alternatives to abortion,” according to the law that established the program.

The state Department of Job and Family Services can enter into agreements with service providers only if they are private and not-for-profit, and where the “primary purpose is to promote childbirth, rather than abortion.”

The law specifically states facilities under the program can’t be “involved in or associated with any abortion activities, including providing abortion counseling or referrals to abortion clinics, performing abortion-related medical procedures, or engaging in pro-abortion advertising.”

“Our taxpayer dollars can not and should not be used to promote fake science and coercion in the midst of this infant and maternal mortality and morbidity crisis,” Miracle said.

A further element of the newly-passed budget that pro-choice advocates say is “dangerous” to Ohioans is the so-called “medical practitioner conscience clause.”

This clause was also Senate-added language, and it allows a medical professional, health care institution or health care payer to “decline to perform, participate in, or pay for any health care service that violates the practitioner’s, institution’s, or payer’s conscience as informed by the moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or principles” held by them.

“A doctor needs to have a medically-induced reason to be able to not care,” said Jasmine Henderson, director of policy and social impact at the Ohio Women’s Alliance. “Our Ohio legislature doesn’t actually have the ability to determine what a health care outcome looks like…because, constitutionally, that is not their job.”

The groups asked that Gov. Mike DeWine issue line-item vetoes for the provisions. DeWine has until Wednesday, the end of the fiscal year, to issue vetoes to the budget.

DeWine has previously signed abortion-ban legislation and has been clear about his anti-abortion support.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.

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