News Abortion

Following Ohio Clinic Closures, Michigan Sees Influx of Ohio Patients Seeking Abortions

Teddy Wilson

As restrictions on reproductive health-care facilities have forced clinics around Ohio to close, people seeking abortion services have begun to head north to Michigan.

As restrictions on reproductive health-care facilities have forced clinics around Ohio to close, people seeking abortion services have begun to head north to Michigan. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently reported that after three of the state’s 14 clinics closed, some clinics in southern Michigan have reported an increase in the number of appointments by women from Ohio.

Rewire recently reported that in addition to the three clinics that have closed, two more are in danger of shuttering their doors due to the stringent regulations. That would leave just nine clinics left in a state with a population of more than 11 million. The America Civil Liberties Union has challenged the restrictions, which were put into the state’s budget without debate in June and soon after were signed by Gov. John Kasich.

Lara Chelian, appointment center manager with the Northland Family Planning Centers, told Rewire that while they have not compiled official numbers, they have seen the number of patients from Ohio increasing. “We estimate 30 to 40 patients a month are coming from Ohio, and that is a low estimate,” said Chelian. “It seems to increase every week because of the clinic closures and people making appointments for late-term abortions.”

The Center for Choice in Toledo was forced to close earlier this year because it could not obtain a transfer agreement with a local hospital. The clinic’s website and phone number now direct to Northland. “Sometimes they think they’re calling the Center for Choice clinic,” said Chelian.

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Northland treats a variety of patients from all over Ohio and other states as well. “We get a lot of physician referrals from Ohio and Indiana,” said Chelian. “We are often times the closest clinic to treat patients with fetal indications—people who don’t find out until much later in their pregnancy that something is wrong.” Chelian said that Northland receives patients from all over the midwest and as far away as Kentucky.

The travel involved creates a significant barrier to access and can place quite a burden on patients. “For patients who need to terminate a pregnancy that are further along they have to have a two-day procedure,” said Chelian. “This creates a burden for them because they have to travel and then stay overnight.”

Chelian specifically cited the National Abortion Federation (NAF) for helping women who are financially unable to obtain abortion services through their Patient Assistance Fund. “We are very thankful and grateful for the NAF fund, which provides assistance for women that need to travel to access services,” she said.

Supporters of Ohio’s stringent abortion restrictions claim that women are not leaving the state to seek abortion services, and that the closure of clinics has led to fewer abortions being performed. Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, told the Plain Dealer that he doesn’t think there is a “mad dash for the border” and that more people are choosing to continue their pregnancies or are preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

“That’s maddening,” said Chelian, in response to Gonidakis’ comments. “It is completely inaccurate. We are seeing the direct result of clinic closures. There is still a huge burden for women to access services in this country, financially or otherwise. There are a lot of hurdles that women must navigate and they are choosing to do whatever they can to find abortion care.”

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Family Planning

Judge Thwarts Ohio GOP’s Attack on Planned Parenthood Funding

Michelle D. Anderson

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

An effort to defund Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates by Gov. John Kasich (R) and the Republican-held legislature has come to an end.

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio on Friday ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, granting a permanent injunction on an anti-choice state law.

The court ruling will keep Richard Hodges, the Ohio Department of Health director, from enforcing HB 294.

The 2015 law, sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County), would have redirected $1.3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood’s 28 clinics in Ohio.

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The law would have required the state department to keep federal funds and materials that the health department receives from being distributed to entities that perform or promote non-therapeutic abortions, or maintain affiliation with any entity that does.

Funding that would’ve been cut off from the state health department went to the Violence Against Women and Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention acts, the Infertility Prevention Project, Minority HIV/AIDS and Infant Mortality Reduction initiatives, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit argued that the Republican legislation violated the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Barrett had temporarily blocked the law after Planned Parenthood affiliates filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction. The judge had issued an opinion contending that some legislators passed the law to make it difficult for people to access abortion care, as Rewire reported.

Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, praised the judge’s temporary order.

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” Harvey said in a statement.

Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro Choice Ohio’s executive director, said in a statement that the Ohio legislature passed the anti-choice measure in an effort to appeal to conservative voters in early primary states during Kasich’s presidential campaign.

Copeland said that while the legislation made no effort to reduce the number of abortions performed, “it actively blocked critical health care for low-income women and families.”

Planned Parenthood said those services included 70,000 free STD screenings, thousands of HIV tests for at-risk community residents, and the largest infant mortality prevention program in the state.

In the 23-page court order and opinion, Barrett, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the law would have deterred “patients from seeking these potentially life-saving services.”

Planned Parenthood noted that the recent ruling in Ohio makes it among the ten states where courts have blocked anti-choice laws following June’s landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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