Over the last decade, politicians in Ohio have hijacked our state legislature and turned it into a conveyor belt of anti-abortion legislation, most recently a ban on abortion before most people even know they’re pregnant. Through it all, our message has been clear: Abortion is still legal in the state of Ohio.
At Preterm, an independent, nonprofit abortion clinic in Cleveland, we have been working to protect our patients’ access to care for decades. As Ohio’s largest clinic, we provide abortion and sexual health care for nearly 6,000 Ohioans every year, and we have taken the state of Ohio to court time and time again to fight for our patients. 2019 has been no different.
As soon as Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the abortion ban into law this spring, our phones started ringing. Each caller had the same question: Is abortion still legal in Ohio? As Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri all enacted their own unconstitutional and dangerous bans into law, the confusion only increased. Thanks to court decisions, none of those laws are currently in effect. Still, we heard from people actively seeking abortion care, people worried about their options for the future, and people just curious about what was happening, all wondering if abortion was now illegal throughout the Midwest and southern United States.
So, together with our friends at Women Have Options/Ohio and the Digital Defense Fund, and following in the footsteps of reproductive justice groups in Georgia like ARC Southeast, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Sister Song, SisterLove, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and URGE, we launched Abortionislegalinohio.com. Both Georgia’s site and ours are dedicated to informing people about the status of abortion in two states where radical, anti-abortion, extremist politicians have muddied the waters with intentionally confusing and cruel legislation and rhetoric. This confusion is happening around the country, but particularly in the Midwest and South—where anti-abortion legislation has reached a zenith.
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Just a few days after our Ohio site launched, we learned of a woman who discovered she was pregnant around the same time the six-week abortion ban in Ohio was signed into law. She assumed the law was in effect and she no longer had the option of considering abortion. A few days later, she called Preterm to find out more about her options and discovered that abortion was indeed still legal here. Unfortunately, her time to access abortion care within the legal limit was quickly running short. She still needed to get to the clinic, wait the mandatory 24 hours between appointments, receive her state-mandated counseling, and come up with the money to help finance her health care. Confusion around whether abortion is legal shortened her timeline for care, limited her options, and increased her expense. Although the abortion ban never took effect in Ohio, we know it affected people like her.
We serve some of the most vulnerable people in the country. Poverty rates are high; opioid addiction is rampant; maternal and fetal mortality rates, particularly for people of color, are some of the highest in the world; and immigrants, LGBTQ people, and people living at the intersections of these identities are under daily threats to their lives. Anti-abortion legislation is just one more attack on targeted groups’ ability to thrive.
It has led to all the things you would expect. More lawsuits. More action days. More boots on the ground. When abortion is under attack, we are on the front lines, answering questions, scheduling appointments, assuaging fears, and getting accurate information to the public.
We are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, but despite a restraining order blocking the law from going into effect, confusion about the status of abortion access and legality is still rampant across Ohio. We hope our site can alleviate some of the confusion and give Ohioans a central place to find a clinic, donate to the cause, and get involved with the grassroots organizations working to ensure access across the state.
Together, Ohio’s coalition of reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations and allies are more aligned and stronger than ever. We are proud to be in solidarity with independent abortion providers across the Midwest and South, and to be the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit challenging Ohio’s dangerous and unconstitutional abortion ban. We’re here. We’re open. We’re providing care and fighting back. Abortion is still legal in Ohio.