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Abortion providers, opponents prepare for a post-Roe Ohio

Abortion protestors at Ohio Statehouse on June 29, 2021.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A crowd gathers on the lawn in front of the Ohio Statehouse to show their support for abortion rights on May 14, 2022.

The draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion leaked early this month is the strongest indication yet that the days of federally protected rights to abortions could be ending.

The opinion sent health care providers on both sides of the debate scrambling to prepare for a post-Roe Ohio.

“We were expecting this ruling for Roe to be overturned. But we weren't expecting it now. And we certainly weren't expecting it as a leak," said Aileen Day, director of communications for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, the political wing of the organization fighting for abortion to remain legal.

"People are scared. People have been calling in wondering if abortion is still legal, if they can still get care, and what this means for them," said Day.

Day reminds people that abortion services are still being provided in Ohio, at least for now.

In the wake of the leak, Day said there’s been a noticeable uptick in the number of protesters outside of their clinics--something she says takes a toll on clinicians and patients alike.

“Abortion shouldn't be stigmatized. There shouldn't be hate around getting this needed health care," she said.

Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Most polls on the subject show that only a slight majority of Ohioans support abortion rights.

A number of organizations across the state continue working to offer women facing an unwanted pregnancy with abortion alternatives.

"Centers like ours have been praying for the overturn of Roe for many, many years," said Melanie Miller, the executive director of the Ashland Pregnancy Care Center. (She’s also a Republican candidate for the Ohio House district covering the eastern half of Delaware County.)

"We're a faith-based, and if you will, a pro-life pregnancy resource center, and we offer compassion, hope, and help to women and men facing critical pregnancy decisions with their pregnancy options," Miller said.

The center offers a wide variety of services from free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, to parenting, labor and delivery classes.

The center says its mission is to make it easier for women to say no to an abortion, but critics of such centers, including the American Medical Association, say they often mislead women.

Miller said the center serves about 200 to 230 clients a year, but that number would almost certainly go up post-Roe in a state with an anti-abortion legislature and governor.

“We have doctors, nurses, teachers and educators on our staff and as volunteers. I really believe that our centers are ready for this," Miller said.

While anti-abortion advocates like Miller see this work as essential strands in a robust social safety net, Aileen Day with Planned Parenthood remains unimpressed, pointing to Ohio's chronically high infant and maternal mortality rates.

"It's not for a lack of trying for putting legislation forward to ease that burden and make that easier. So I do believe that that is all talk with no action from their side,” Day said.

Day said Planned Parenthood is preparing by building out their patient navigator program to help Ohioans seeking an abortion travel out of state for services.

"That's going to be a cost of childcare, cost of transportation, cost of hotel, and those are costs even before we get into the medical procedure itself. So it's going to be a huge financial burden," Day said.

That's an outcome abortion opponents like Melanie Miller say they want to prevent.

For their part—and to no one’s surprise—Governor DeWine and the legislature are taking the side of pregnancy crisis centers over clinics that provide abortions.

One week before the Supreme Court draft opinion leaked, DeWine issued an executive order sending $1.5 million in state money to at least 14 pregnancy crisis centers around the state.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.