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Advocates See Different Reasons For Fewer Abortions In Ohio

Abortion protesters at the Ohio Statehouse.
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Abortion protesters at the Ohio Statehouse.

A new report shows that 20,425 abortions were performed in Ohio in 2018, slightly fewer than in the year before. Supporters and opponents of legal abortion disagree on the reason for the decline.

There is one point, however, on which abortion opponents and abortion rights supportes agree: Ohio is not the only state where the number of abortions declined.

“It follows a nationwide trend so this isn’t an Ohio specific or isolated incident," says Ohio Right to Life executive director Stephanie Ranade Krider.

“Ohio is very in line with what’s happening nationally," says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

When it comes to why they think the number of abortions in Ohio is decreasing, the two women have different perspectives. Copeland thinks Obamacare is responsible for the decrease.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act and the ability that people have to access the birth control they need and not just that they can afford to pay out of pocket, we are seeing the rates of unintended pregnancies go down," Copeland says.

Krider thinks more women are opting to continue pregnancies because of public awareness campaigns and facilities that offer alternatives to abortion. She credits the state's recently-passed restrictions, including the six-week so-called “Heartbeat Ban," which is on a court-ordered hold.

“I know that pregnancy centers across the state have seen an uptick in the number of clients visiting, thinking that they are not able to get an abortion earlier in pregnancy," Krider says.

Copeland doesn’t think those restrictions are having much of an impact right now.

“For the most part, abortion remains accessible to the people who need it in Ohio," Copeland says. "It remains accessible in all of the cities that had it before. And the abortion restrictions that have been put in place are largely being tied up in court so they haven’t had the disastrous impact that we anticipate on Ohio’s public yet."

The report shows the number of abortions in Ohio in 2018 were down 2% from 2017. More than 80% of the abortions were performed at 12 weeks or earlier.

When it comes to who is getting abortions, the report says more were performed on African American women, which Krider says concerns her.

"Black women, in particular, are just vastly disproportionately represented in the number of women having abortions," Krider says. "They make up 44.3% of the abortions performed in a given year while they make up just 12% of the actual population. So certainly, that is not in the proportion you would expect to see if there were not some sort of disparity there."

The report shows surgical abortions represented 56% of the abortions performed in 2018. That method has decreased since 2001 when 87% of terminations were surgical procedures.

Abortions using medication made up the rest of the procedures. In some clinics, like Toledo for example, those medication abortions, done at the earliest stages in pregnancy, are the only option.

There were nine clinics in Ohio performing surgical abortions last year – all close to Ohio’s big cities.

The report shows clinics in Cleveland performed a little over a third of all abortion, Columbus-area clinics provided just over 18%. The Cincinnati area followed with 15%, and though Dayton is a smaller city, around 14% were performed there.

Copeland notes the Dayton clinic has been in a battle with the state over a transfer agreement with a local hospital.

“They’ve seen approximately 1,000 more patients since 2013 and that signals to us why it’s so important that the Ohio Department of Health approve that clinic’s request for a license renewal, that they approve their variance and they allow them to continue to provide that vital care that so many people now rely on," Copeland says.

The abortion report shows more than 12,359 of the women seeking abortions last year were on women between 25 and 55 years old. More than 6,000 were performed on women between 20 and 24-years-old.

Women between 18 and 19 years old had more than 1,300 abortions. Girls under the age of 18 represented 625 abortions. Krider wants to make sure the state follows up on those.

“It just raises a lot of questions about those girls and the circumstances they are in and if there are questions of rape or family violence or incest," Krider says. "And are they receiving the care they deserve?"

Both Krider and Copeland think next year’s report might shed more light on exactly how the implementation of new abortion restrictions are, or are not, affecting the number performed in the Buckeye state.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.