OSU studies: Proposed Ohio abortion restrictions could put care out of reach

By: - April 25, 2022 3:45 am

Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Robin Bravender/States Newsroom.

Two studies released by The Ohio State University researchers show a pessimistic “best case” scenario for access to abortion in the state, if proposed restrictions are put into place.

While the recently released research criticizes existing and proposed anti-abortion legislation, they also say the state’s restrictions aren’t stopping abortion, just pushing it across state borders in many cases.

The studies both observed the distance patients would need to travel to obtain care from Ohio’s abortion clinics, with one finding that under the best case scenario, meaning surrounding states to Ohio also offer care, the distance for abortion care for 62 of Ohio’s counties was at least 115 miles, and at most, 279 miles, in February of this year.

In the worst-case scenario, patients in Ohio, 85 counties were an average of 264 miles from an abortion care facility.

The study, done by researchers Payal Chakraborty, Stef Murawsky, Mikaela Smith, Michelle McGowan, Alison Norris and Danielle Bessett, appeared in the April edition of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

“The implementation of existing abortion restrictions has coincided with facility closures, increased wait time, and differences in care offerings, creating barriers to care, including long travel distances for abortion seekers,” the study concluded.

The existing abortion restrictions include state laws that dictate how care is provided, such as the 24-hour waiting period required before an abortion procedure can be conducted and viability verification.

Other laws are also being considered, like “trigger” abortion bans that would take effect if the federal Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide is overturned. Other legislation restricting abortion-related practices or physicians who can be affiliated with abortion clinics have been passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, but remain snarled in court battles.

The U.S Supreme Court is set to decide a Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could decide whether Roe v. Wade stays in place, or whether states will have the authority to change abortion regulation as they each see fit.

A second study, published in The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, used federal data from 2017 to identify the number of patients leaving states for abortion care.

Researchers Norris, Smith, Chakraborty and Bessett joined Elaina Johns-Wolfe, Jenny Higgins and Zoe Muzyczka in showing that an average of 8% of patients were going out of state for their abortion care. In Ohio in 2017, that amounted to 5.8% of abortions, or more than 1,100 residents seeking care in surrounding states.

The studies also made note of other variables to abortion care that come from a lack of resources, such as money and transportation, that couldn’t be factored into their numbers.

“Finally, because patient counts represent those individuals seeking an abortion who were able to obtain care at a facility, this analysis entirely misses those who traveled for care but were not able to receive it, or those who would have traveled but did not have the resources to reach a facility,” the study in The Lancet Regional Health – Americas stated.

The study in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health suggested that legislation in Ohio “would force all Ohioans into this reality, one which compounds the burden for those who already experience the most inequities in access to healthcare.”

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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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